Kimiko Does Cancer is a sensitively told and beautifully rendered graphic memoir and a stunning debut accomplishment by both writer and subject matter focus Kimiko Tobimatsu and artist Keet Geniza. As the title suggests, it’s an intimate portrait of a queer woman of color’s struggle and journey in navigating a cancer diagnosis and life afterwards.
Kimiko Tobimatsu’s candid and unflinchingly honest narration tells a heartfelt story that’s often not heard in cancer narratives. For one, Tobimatsu is a queer-identifying woman. For another, she’s also a woman of color. Thirdly, Tobimatsu’s story isn’t a revelation because it’s a rare occurrence but because it’s just so rarely explored; cancer stories usually either end in tragedy or in a triumphant remission. What about the less glamorous stories about drug-induced menopause, the struggles of being “cured” but still not feeling well, the not feeling like you belong to a particular tribe that’s unified by a common adversary? How does cancer affect your interpersonal relationships? These are some of the topics that Tobimatsu’s brave memoir covers.
Keet Geniza’s artwork is extremely accomplished, bringing such an incredibly nuanced approach to storytelling. The limited color palette keeps the expressions and body language in stark relief and Geniza’s linework is up to the task. While there are moments of nudity and sexual intimacy in the story, Geniza eschews salaciousness, instead focusing on the tenderness and humanity of the moment.
Kimiko Does Cancer being a bold debut by both Tobimatsu and Geniza is why #StoriesMatter so much, especially when they’re told from new perspectives. Both Tobimatsu and Geniza identify as queer, and I think that the unabashedly queer perspective that’s communicated here is necessary and timely, especially when it’s exploring the intersectionality of queer identity within communities of color.
Overall, this would be an enthusiastic recommendation from me. It’s honest, it’s real, it’s hopeful without being saccharine, and I think most importantly, it’s a story of how living in the shadow of cancer is not just about “overcoming adversity” but about “experiencing ongoing disability.”
Creative Team: Kimiko Tobimatsu (writer), Keet Geniza (illustrator)
Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press
Click here to purchase.