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Many sides of truth

Diary of a Teenage Girl: Pop-Up Exhibition by Phoebe Gloeckner at the Institute for the Humanities.

Phoebe Gloeckner doesn’t flinch from controversy. Then again, she might not even consider her work as controversial, but rather simply an unvarnished view of her most intimate experiences and thoughts set to words and images.

In “The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” her undaunting portrayal and swirling emotions of a girl’s adolescence and affair with her mother’s boyfriend has few, if any comparisons. The illustrated novel, published in 2002, is a gut-wrenchingly honest examination of a girl’s budding sexuality, vulnerability, and ultimately, victimization. The New York Times called Gloeckner’s story a depiction of “an adolescence that is at once traumatic and picturesque.”

It was Gloeckner’s passionate and uncompromising style that captured the imagination of Marielle Heller, who adapted the novel into a play, which will be staged at the 3LD Art & Technology Center in Lower Manhattan on March 15. Please click on the arrow below to watch an excerpt from the play.

Gloeckner, an assistant professor at U-M School of Art & Design, became interested in cartooning when she was young, and admired the work of underground cartoonists in San Francisco, where she lived at the time. After her studies in medical illustration at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, she embarked on a career as a medical illustrator.

“I’ve always thought of myself as a writer as much as a visual artist—in fact, although I use the term “cartoonist” to describe myself, it doesn’t fit too comfortably—particularly now, when I’m working on an illustrated novel. As a matter of fact, all cartoonists are writers,” Gloeckner told interviewer Gary Sullivan. (For complete transcript:

Her illustrated short stories, which she claims are semi-autobiographical, have been widely published, including in a several underground comics anthologies. She illustrated “Weird Things You Can Grow,” co-written with Janet Goldenberg, and published by Random House.

Currently, Gloeckner is working on a story of the unsolved murders of hundreds of young women along the Texas-Mexico border. Her story will be a contribution to the chapter book, “I Live Here,” edited by actress/activist Mia Kirshner.