Book Review: How to be Ace: A Memoir of Growing Up Asexual by Rebecca Burgess

*Thank you to Jessica Kingley Publishers and Netgalley for approving me to review this book! (I’m slowly getting through my TBR after a long hiatus. Please bear with!).

I first stumbled across this comic book during the end of October (a while now, I realise!) and it was one that I was only sad I hadn’t read earlier. Published on 21st October just in time for Asexual Awareness Week, a week that seeks to publicise resources and information about asexuality, How to be Ace is a wonderful memoir that is not only easy to read but carries a lot of heart.

It is a love letter, of sorts, and a clever one at that. Of course, there is no “right” way to be ace, nor is it a “how to” guide (obviously), but the comic follows the author’s real life struggle growing up and discovering her own asexual identity in a way that I hadn’t seen depicted so well or so relatably anywhere else.

I should perhaps clarify.

An excerpt from How to be Ace

I’m ace. Reading this comic made me both incredibly happy, if a little overwhelmed, at just how on the nose it all was. To have something close to my own experience depicted in this comic does wonders for the niggling voice at the back of your brain which says “maybe you’re all imagining it”. I am glad that books like this are becoming more commonplace to publish.

The comic itself is delightful. The artwork is expressive, emotive, and easy to follow. The messages about asexuality and what it is are informative, and the storyline is touching as we read more of Rebecca’s story and how she meets her current partner Sophie – proving that just because you’re asexual, does not mean you are incapable of forming meaningful relationships with other people.

In the year that has been 2020, How to be Ace is also a message of hope to those feeling disaffected or lost in their own LGBT identities living in unprecedented times (this storyline chart’s Rebecca’s journey against the backdrop of the 2008 recession as a university graduate). As Burgess says:

“Life is never what you expect it to be. No matter who you are, no one ever really lives up to the expectations that are given to us. You never completely shake off the challenges given to you. But it’s much easier to get through life’s challenges when you understand who you are.”

Final verdict:
If you’re looking for a change of genre, to educate yourself, or just to expand your reading list to include more LGBT works this year, I’d definitely recommend this comic memoir. It’s engaging, informative, and poignantly written. I hope to see more works published like this in the future.

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