Kat Fajardo’s Gringa opens with a startling two-page spread: protestors, some angry, many gleeful, hold up signs bearing statements like “Diversity = White Genocide” and “Return to Sender.” It is a stark, frightening punch in the gut; a reminder that those who carry xenophobic mindsets are not ugly, black-hat-wearing villains, but people who believe happily and whole-heartedly that our borders should be sealed.
Fajardo is first generation half-Honduran, half-Colombian, and in Gringa she reflects on how racist, anti-immigrant mindsets and the American aspects of her upbringing caused her to feel neither Latina nor white. There is some regret in her recollections – Fajardo mentions dying her hair and taking other steps to diminish her Latina-ness – but she largely spends the comic reflecting on the various pressures that prevented her from feeling proud of her identity.
While the content is quite serious, the comic’s tone is lighthearted, and sometimes humorous. Fajardo narrates the zine while showing snapshots of her childhood and adolescence, and the imagery reinforces and expands on her narration. The simplicity of the text is deceptive; while the comic itself is easy to read, Fajardo’s real life experiences are quite complex. After reaching the end, I felt compelled to return to the beginning and reread the zine immediately, not only because I wanted to better understand Fajardo, but also because the comic is so engaging.
Fajardo’s style is very cute; her line work is round and soft, and lots of her characters have adorable noses. The whole comic is done in grey and white watercolor, and the overall effect is very calming. There are a few important exceptions: at the points in her story when she delves into a very negative feeling – when she describes feeling unable to fit in anywhere in terms of culture and race, for example – she fills the entire background in with grey. This tactic successfully communicates stress without detracting from the lighter tone of the comic, and highlights key tensions in Fajardo’s complex identity.
Gringa is a beautiful, multifaceted comic that you can read over and over again. It will feel especially relevant to Latinx children of immigrants, but will be engaging for all its readers. You can purchase a PDF copy from Fajardo’s Gumroad, and keep up with her work on Tumblr and Twitter.