If you were to ask me today if I was an introvert as a kid, the answer would be an unequivocal yes. I’d stay inside and read during recess instead of playing with the other children. I was bullied a lot growing up and books were my only sanctuary from the jeers of my peers. These experiences helped me to be comfortable with being alone and enjoying my own company, but it also led to issues later in life. My father berated me constantly throughout my senior year of high school to be “more social” with other people my age, assuming there was something wrong with preferring to stay in my room and read or write.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate the company of my fellow human beings; I just didn’t see a constant need to be social. Reading about Debbie Tung’s own experiences of being an introvert and dealing with similar issues helped to soothe a lot of my childhood anxiety over not “talking enough” to people all the time.
Quiet Girl in a Noisy World: An Introvert’s Story is Debbie’s debut graphic novel, spanning the first three years of her early adulthood from attending college to getting a career. During college she feels she has to fulfill social obligations to earn her ‘alone time’ where she’s free to read a book, paint, or simply have a cup of tea in peace. She’s content to be productive in these moments, preferring things like writing or painting instead of hanging out with other people.
Her story is soft and quiet, filled with gentle moments as she describes her day to day life. Her thoughts tend to wander throughout the book from reminiscing about her childhood and how people saw her as a child to curling up under a blanket on a rainy day. It’s therapeutic to read about her easy acceptance of each new day as it dawns. She appreciates the small things like her boyfriend buying her new books and enjoying the quiet serenity of working in a cafe. Her story doesn’t follow a set narrative, but tends to flit around like a minnow in a pond, each thought flashing and flickering from one destination to another. Her splashes of realization of discovering how in entering the career field, it’s not everything she expected it to be.
Being an “adult” with a full-time job, paying bills, and living out on her own with her boyfriend is not everything it’s cracked up to be. She wants more out of life and at one point has to reach her own conclusion about what truly matters to her as a person and the responsible choice that hangs in the balance when it comes to her future.
The only complaint I have with Quiet Girl is sometimes the wording feels dispassionate when Debbie describes a scene or action takes place. The artwork was fine, and felt like picking up a newspaper and reading the comics; sense of sitting down at the table with a cup of coffee while preparing to start my day. Honestly, the best explanation is that I felt Debbie’s writing lacked the passion of her artwork, as if something vibrant was lost in the translation.
To be fair, I have the same issue all the time. Even after one of my articles is written, edited, and finally published I still feel I didn’t get to “say” what I meant. This is especially true with those things I’ve come to absolutely love and respect, Quiet Girl, being one of those subjects, is something I could write (and rewrite) about a thousand times and probably never get the words out to express my true thoughts on it.
And you know what, I don’t think Quiet Girl in a Noisy World was meant to be enjoyed by an audience at all. As I continued to read it felt more like the pondering of a day-to-day life instead of a book to be looked over with a passive eye. Debbie’s comics are inspired by her everyday life and her book felt like an open journal she decided to share with the world. I’m not sure if I can be called a fan at this point, but there’s a quiet joy to these moments I think everyone can appreciate.