Book Talk: Sensible Footwear: A Girl's Guide by Kate Charlesworth

Updated: Jun 28, 2020

It's been an age since I wrote a blog post, but I had to break my silence and accidental blogging hiatus for this gorgeous, brilliant book.

Yes, it needed to be in bold. I've been waiting for Sensible Footwear: A Girl's Guide by Kate Charlesworth for what seems like ages (a downside of pouring over publisher catalogues on a monthly basis) and I was so excited when Myriad's wonderful publicist, Emma, sent over a copy. I took my time reading it, because it's full of stories and deserves to be savoured, but I promise you will come out of this book knowing things you had no idea about before, especially that songs about iconic LGBTQ+ figures are always better when set to the tunes of Gilbert & Sullivan music!

This is a graphic novel, but if you think that you don't read graphic novels for whatever reason, I'd urge you to pick up this or any of Myriad's other graphic novels. They are always slightly quirky and without exception always excellent.

Starting in 1950 and going through to the present day Charlesworth draws the history of LGBTQ+ people and their fights for equality and intersperses it with her own story from childhood onwards. She pairs the bigotry and resistance she has faced in her own life with the bigotry and resistance LGBTQ+ people have faced throughout our history. I loved the Britishness of this book - it was full of familiar places and people I've heard of and I felt really educated by the experience of reading it. It gave a lot more depth to things I had sort of known but not really paid much attention to, and it shook my assumptions that we are progressing towards a society where people can be free to be who they are without judgement and repression from others. As a straight cis woman it's uncomfortably easy to make assumptions like this, and I am always grateful to books that shake up my thinking, which this definitely has done.

The memoir parts of Sensible Footwear are a sharp commentary on the times that Kate Charlesworth has lived through as well, from friends she lost to AIDS to her mother's inability to accept her for who she was for a long time. It is hilarious and interesting and in parts very sad. I loved the combination of memoir and biography - on top of everything else it's a brilliant illustration of what the difference is between the two - and I'm going to be keeping it on my bookshelf for my kids when they're older, because it does a better job of teaching and explaining about the history of LGBTQ+ rights than I ever could.

If this sounds intriguing to you, try some of our other short reviews of Myriad's graphic novels:

The Opportunity by Will Volley

For the Love of God, Marie by Jade Sarson

The Lady Doctor by Ian Williams

and I don't have a review of it but I hugely recommend Naming Monster by Hannah Eaton too!


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