Review: Bingo Love

In this world, queer Black women don't get many breaks. Across almost every measure of success—employment, political participation, familial obligation, health, violence, and poverty—our outcomes lag behind those of our peers. Because of these realities, the stories we tell each other matter. They are welcome escapes, the opportunity to see ourselves as complicated heroines loving, sacrificing, dreaming, and winning. Bingo Love is exactly this kind of reward and a reminder that #BlackGirlMagic is real.

Bingo Love, written by Tee Franklin (Love is Love, Nailbiter #27), tells the story of Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray, two young Black girls whose friendship matures into a romance under the disapproving gaze of their grandmothers and The Church. Separated by forces beyond their control, they eventually learn to live the lives dictated to them by the morals of their time and place. A reunion in a bingo hall years later is a second chance for them—with complications.

In a story that spans decades, individual moments capture whole lifetimes of exploration. When Hazel declares, "I'm bisexual… I love humans… I'm pansexual… I'm queer." I think of the years I struggled with understanding myself, the LGBTQ community, and the effort it took to claim a place there. In one of the most tender parts of the story, Hazel balances doing right by the family that loves her while also caring for her own needs. Here, I thought of my mother. I thought of the many women I love. I thought of myself. In life, when uncomfortable decisions seem to pit us against people for whom we want the best, I have seen women sabotage their work and sacrifice themselves for the greater good. Hazel, a role model, makes a different choice.

And still, there's more to see here than what we're often shown. Jenn St-Onge's open and fluid line work forms bodies shaped like mine, that move like mine. When Hazel reclines on her bed after a long night of texting Mari, her cat-like stretch perfectly accentuates bosoms and hips. This full, aging body experiences pleasure! And when daughters nurse grandchildren with all the intimate gestures of a Berthe Morisot painting, I can't help but think these fictional women deserve places in the panels as much as real women do in public.

Joy San's candy-colored palette brings more joy to this queer girl fairytale. When Mari and Hazel share a first kiss, Hazel blushes a deep rose. For someone who has spent a lifetime responding to the questions of clueless white folk ("Do Black people even tan?"), a detail like this is a deep comfort that conveys humanity. And scenes with Hazel's and Mari's families gathered fill my heart. Every complexion—from the "honey-colored maiden" Mari to Hazel's rich earth coloring—is represented, making these panels seem less like a comic and more like family photo albums.

Bingo Love was propelled from Kickstarter to the Image Comics catalog on the talents of Franklin and her team, by fans who want more and deserve better. It feels fitting to say how much I love this title on Valentine's Day and I hope you all have the chance to pick up this sweet book and add it to your shelves.

Bingo Love is available in comic book shops today!

Please join Geeks OUT on March 10 to celebrate the release of Bingo Love with Tee Franklin. Tacos, cocktails, and a Q&A with the author, followed by bingo! $10 advance tickets gets you two bingo cards and a chance to win prizes! Tickets available on Eventbrite!

on February 14, 2018

Nicole Gitau is a bisexual (!)... pansexual (!)... queer (!) woman of color and the President of Geeks OUT