People spend their lives discovering who they are, with the most formative years occurring in adolescence. Meags Fitzgerald’s graphic memoir, Long Red Hair, provides an autobiographical account of Fitzgerald’s childhood and adulthood as she struggles to negotiate her sexuality.
Fitzgerald’s autobiographical character realizes from a young age that she is bisexual. Yet, she has difficulty accepting her sexuality. Growing up in a heteronormative society, Fitzgerald recognizes that she is different from everyone else. This is notable in the text when Fitzgerald invites her friend Lily over for a sleepover. Fitzgerald wants to play “make believe” as fortune-tellers, and tells Lily they can be flirty with each other. Lily becomes uncomfortable and eventually distances herself from Fitzgerald. This is the first instance in the novel where Fitzgerald realizes she is different from other girls.
Throughout the novel, we notice radical changes in Fitzgerald’s hairstyle and clothing as she matures. Her ever-changing appearance emphasizes the multiple identities she explores. As a young teenager pretending to be straight, she grows her hair long and wears pastel colours. When Fitzgerald reveals her sexuality to her family a few years later, her style becomes more masculine. She partially shaves her head, showing her parents that she is different from everybody else.
Fitzgerald continues to experiment with her looks until she learns to accept who she is. She embraces her identity by dyeing her hair red. Fitzgerald has always considered red hair as an attractive trait in women. For her, red hair inspires women to be vivacious and comfortable with her own identity.
Fitzgerald also grows through her love of drawing. She experiences life in pictures, rather than words, which is why her story occurs in the graphic novel format. Graphic novels add depth to the narrative; images give characters faces and personalities, allowing the reader to connect with the protagonists on a more personal level. Fitzgerald’s writing voice is humble, yet strong, as she tells her personal journey to the reader.
Fitzgerald uses unique color schemes and focuses on milestones in her life to emphasize her path to self-discovery, including her acceptance of her bisexuality. The colour scheme in Long Red Hair uses red, green, and brown as its primary colours. The novel’s order is fragmented, as Fitzgerald refers to many flashbacks. These flashbacks act as foreshadowing tools; she focuses on a particular memory which eventually translates into her conflicts as an adult.
Fitzgerald uses unique color schemes and focuses on milestones in her life to emphasize her path to self-discovery, including her acceptance of her bisexuality. Long Red Hair is a suitable read for anyone who feels out of place with their own identity.