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Sugar Town is the perfect title for this sweet memoir of a polyamorous encounter by cartoonist Hazel Newlevant. Newlevant’s other comics include Tender-Hearted, No Ivy League, and If This Be Sin, and she is the editor and publisher of the anthologies Chainmail Bikini and Comics For Choice, an anthology and fundraiser for abortion rights.
In Sugar Town, a younger Hazel, home visiting her folks for the holidays, goes out for a night of dancing at a queer bar. “There’s a million cute queers here!” she observes. “It’s a winter wonderland! And I’m the weird elf who doesn’t know anyone.” It’s a feeling with which most of us can identify.
But then her luck changes, she meets Argent, a sexy dominatrix. They chat, dance, and Hazel admits she has a boyfriend, but their relationship is open. Argent gives Hazel her phone number, and they agree to reconnect. Hazel leaves excited, thinking, “She’s totally out of my league! How is this happening?”
That night she shares the news with her boyfriend Gregor via Skype, where she learns he’s meeting up with Rebecca, whom he’s also seeing, later that week. The next day, when Hazel and Argent reconnect at a coffee shop, they both exchange info about the relationships they’re in. “Argent, thanks for being so open about this stuff. It makes me feel…close to you,” Hazel admits.
The two of them end up hanging out, dating, and sleeping together, while at the same time Hazel keeps in touch with Gregor. When Hazel’s birthday rolls around, it’s on a day when Rebecca will be visiting Gregor. He sneaks in a call to Hazel, and Argent makes sure Hazel’s birthday is recognized too, with champagne, a home baked chocolate cake, and some fun play in the bedroom.
Before Hazel leaves town, she runs around to wrangle a tape deck from friends so she can make Argent a mix tape as a goodbye gift. Argent is touched, and the two agree to keep dating.
This intimate story shares how polyamory works, and how people can navigate the rules as they go, making their relationship what they want it to be. Despite the excitement of having met a new lover, Newlevant also shares her envy of Gregor’s time with Rebecca, and her nervousness about telling him that she loves him. It’s a human story of how real relationships can work outside of binary definitions.
Newlevant’s drawing style is loose and friendly, with an approachability that invites comic readers in. The bright pink glow of the dance floor juxtaposed with violet rainy December nights creates the perfect setting for this touching holiday romance.
By Hazel Newlevant
Paperback, 9781681485874, 40 pp.