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Book of the Month: Sensible Footwear: A Girl's Guide

by Cassie Ash, Quentin Blake Centre Team

It’s Pride Month and to mark this we have chosen Kate Charlesworth’s graphic novel, Sensible Footwear: A Girl's Guide, as the Book of the Month. The first of its kind, this book documents the history of lesbian life from the 1950s up to the present day through illustration.

Front cover of the book, 'Sensible Footwear: A Girl's Guide' with the author's name 'Kate Charlesworth' at the bottom. At the top of the cover is a quote by Posy Simmonds, 'A stunning achievement.'.

“A stunning achievement — as a graphic study of LGBT history, and as a memoir of growing up gay from the 1950s onwards. Kate’s fluid and tellingly detailed drawing reveal not only the frustrations and traumas of lesbian life, but also the laughter and camaraderie … and a glorious cavalcade of gay icons.”
Posy Simmonds

Cartoonist and graphic novelist Kate Charlesworth illustrates her own personal life experiences intertwined with major moments in LGBTQIA+ history from around the world.

With the initial intention of creating an illustrated LGBTQIA+ history guide, the publication evolved, and the memoir element became more important to the book. Kate Charlesworth writes “The idea for this book began years ago with the premise that we all need to know our history. Today this need has become urgent, and, with intolerance on the rise across the world, we need to be vigilant to protect our hard-won human rights.”

Sensible Footwear: A Girl's Guide begins with Kate reminiscing about her past with friends in a villa in Tenerife, then through illustration Kate shares the highs and lows of her life with utter honesty, real authenticity and lots of humour.

Born in Barnsley on Easter Sunday in 1950, Kate is the only child to two parents, at a time when male homosexuality was illegal. However there were no laws in place for same sex females.

Kate shares her life with us through her beautiful illustrations including her earliest memory, questions she would ponder as a child, her lifetime love of Dusty Springfield, making friends at university, embracing LGBTQIA+ culture, coming out, her relationship with her parents, and all the things in between.

Throughout the book Kate’s collaged history pages illustrate time periods over the last 70 years covering a wealth of LGBTQIA+ history, including the Stonewall Riots, the first Gay Pride march, Section 28, and marriage equality.

Published by Myriad Editions, Sensible Footwear: A Girl’s Guide was awarded best graphic nonfiction by the Broken Frontier Awards in 2019.

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All images: Sensible Footwear: A Girl's Guide © Kate Charlesworth.