Molly Crabapple's 'Drawing Blood' Is The ONE Book Every Woman Should Read This Month
To read (and admire the illustrations of) Molly Crabapple's memoir Drawing Blood is to bear witness to the recent history we missed while many of us sat in sterile classrooms When I think back to when I was 17, I recall a girl who was very unsure of herself, who didn't wear make-up and largely stayed home reading for class. I was good, and followed all the rules set in front of me: do well in school, attend church weekly, and prepare for college. There wasn't much room for adventure, let alone any streak of independence.
Maybe your story is similar, or maybe you took another path, like artist and journalist Molly Crabapple, who at 17 instead of putting her money toward a degree, bought a one-way plane ticket to Paris and lived in the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore.
Her stay at Shakespeare and Company is only the beginning of her adventures through the early 21st century that are chronicled in Drawing Blood. From posing as a model for the site Suicide Girls to drawing and sketching her way through the Occupy protests in New York City and the coinciding revolutions around the world to reporting from places such as Guantánamo Bay and Syria, she's been a part of our larger history.
But more than that, Molly provides an example of living life with intention, purpose, and a fierce commitment to her truths. As Deb Olin Unferth notes in her New York Times review: "At 32 [she] is a lion for her own cause — ferocious and feminist, hardworking and weepy — a new model for this century’s young woman."
Drawing Blood may be one of the the most inspirational and powerful books of 2015, making it an essential read for women everywhere. I know I'm ready to go forth and kick some ass after reading it. With the takeaways below, hopefully you will, too.
1. It's OK To Be Angry; It's a Step Toward Change
We are often told to hold our anger in, which only allows it to turn inward and internalize. Molly recognized early on how toxic this mindset was. As she turned to drawing, especially in high school, she realized that "turned outward, anger was restorative." By allowing herself to be angry, she was able to channel that in her work. Even now, reading her journalistic dispatches, there is an anger that underlies her word:
anger at the injustices of Guantánamo Bay; anger at police violence and mass incarceration; and anger at the powers that be, whether it's a world leader or Donald Trump. But in each instance, her anger is used to fuel her work and bring further attention to the causes she cares about.
Anger can be a difficult emotion, but by recognizing that it can be productively turned outward is the first step toward making changes in our world.
2. Never Underestimate Your Worth
Talking about one's worth — as a individual with your own talents and unique qualities — can be complex. It's a way of tying yourself to your work and over-riding capitalistic structures. When it comes to pursing any artistic endeavor, you may be told to work for exposure with little to no pay at times. It's then you need to rely on your talents and wits to propel yourself forward. At 22 years old, Molly became frustrated with posing as anonymous model at the Society of Illustrators. Refusing to just be an interchangeable model, she founded Dr. Sketchy's, a workshop "where models would be muses." She hired friends from the burlesque world to participate. Ten years later, Dr. Sketchy's workshops take place all around the world.
While Molly is no longer actively involved, her founding of Dr. Sketchy's illustrates the importance of using your own initiative to take charge. Go pursue that project that lets your talents shine best.
3. Travel and Get Outside Your Everyday Life
France. Italy. Morocco. Those are just the places Molly traveled through when she was 17. But it was at Shakespeare and Company that she found a base to explore her art. There she met other artists of all ages, including a British playwright who wrote a character based on her. She would later adopt this name as her own: Molly Crabapple. In order to really understand yourself and who you are, you need to step outside the familiar. While it isn't feasible for everyone to travel the world, that doesn't exclude getting outside of your everyday life. Your adventure could be just a train or car ride away.
Find your own Shakespeare and Company, a place where you can meet new people and thrive.
4. Surround Yourself With Supportive Women
Perhaps one of the greatest parts of Drawing Blood is the lavish praise Molly showers on her friends. Often friendships between women are portrayed as catty and cruel, and it does a disservice to all of us. While she doesn't shy away from discussing some difficult moments in various friendships, Molly takes the time to shine the spotlight on her friends like journalists Laurie Penny and Natasha Lennard, burlesque performer Amber Ray, and adult film star Stoya.
I couldn't help but smile during the passages where Molly discusses her friendship with Penny:
We didn't just speak about changing the world. Laurie complained about the childlike men in her life, and we tried on lipstick and practiced teasing our hair big in the mirror. We talked about our goals, our hunger for travel and creation, which drove us to work harder than imagined we could.
Surrounding yourself with women you admire, and who admire you in return, creates a supportive system to challenge your personal and creative growth.
Images: Molly Crabapple/Goodreads; Illustrations Courtesy of Molly Crabapple