Rachelle Meyer delves into her childhood attending Catholic school in Texas and reflects on the lessons delivered.
October 17, 2020
Available now at www.rachellemeyer.com
“Holy Diver” is the first story in a series of 3, called Texas Tracts, about the creator’s childhood being taught by nuns. The books are formatted in the size and style of Chick tracts and named in reference to them. Chick tracts are short evangelical comics that have been printed and distributed in the US for the past 50 years, often explicitly homophobic and strongly anti-other faiths, including Catholicism. So Rachelle’s re-purposing of their style sends the reader a strong message from the time they hold the book in their hands.
I read this mini-comic, on my flight home from my first trip to Ireland to see my family since Christmas 2019 (thanks, COVID-19) which felt very appropriate. With the fresh lashes of Catholic guilt dealt out by my mum still stinging I was curious to see if that experience was shared by Rachelle. She opens by introducing the reader to Sunday mass in the US South with a beautiful combination of wide shots, church interiors, and landscapes. Her opening pages made me suitably curious as to what those familiar prayers would sound like in a Texan accent. It amused me to learn that the competitively quick manner in which the Catholic Irish like to deliver their Hail Mary’s is shared across the Atlantic Ocean, another ubiquitous trait besides the guilt.
The book goes on to explore the common outcome when the women in your world who have the most authority, prestige, and respect are nuns. When this is the environment, following in their footsteps seems pretty appealing and they become easy role models for impressionable girls. So, when the nuns warn of the dangers of popular music young Rachelle is immediately concerned for the soul of her older brother. The rest of the book shows her internal conflict culminating in a sweet interaction between her and her brother, but the conclusion lacks much weight, so left me feeling unsatisfied. It is unclear whether the current day Rachelle feels the same as she did at the time, or if her takeaways from the situation are different on reflection. Does she still truly believe she saved her brother’s soul with a post-it?
With that being said, the book drew me in and was the beginning exploration of some interesting topics of religion. So I would be curious to read the rest of the series, with the hope that they will look more at any differences in how adult Rachelle views these memories as opposed to how she felt at the time. Because of the intentional parody of Chick tracts, I expected some more overt criticisms of the nuns and church’s lessons, but that is perhaps me bringing my own baggage to the work. I think the artwork throughout does a lovely job of drawing you into the world with a balance of detailed panels and use of blank space to draw the attention and prevent this physically, small book from feeling visually cluttered.
The Kickstarter for the printing of the Texas Tracts series launched on the 15th of September.