Saturday, January 3, 2015

Not My Bag

by Sina Grace

I'd wanted to read Not My Bag for a while, because I've enjoyed Sina Grace's cartooning, and like the idea of him using memoir to shine a light on life in lower-high-end retail.

Needing to pay off some car repairs, Grace took a job at a prominent department store, becoming their 'Eileen Fisher specialist', and selling a line usually associated with older and larger women.  At first, Grace dives into the job with enthusiasm, but as he starts to see how the place works, and how the people above him manipulate their workers, he goes from enjoying his job to having attacks of paranoia and anxiety.

Grace fills this book with the types of insights you would expect from an intelligent and observant person in his position.  He talks about his sharkish co-workers, who are desperate for commissions, as well as his disdain for his own Persian-American community (interestingly, the only time that ethnicity enters the book).

Throughout the book, Grace also shows his own mental state during this time.  We see how the ghosts of former failed or unrealized relationships make it difficult to get closer to 'The Lawyer', his current love interest.  He drops hints about how his comics career is growing at this time as well, although not quickly enough to outpace his growing love of purchasing higher-end fashion items for himself.

Grace is a smart cartoonist.  I especially like the way he refrains from showing the face of Frankie, his manager.  She is always shown as wearing different masks, most notably a Guy Fawkes/V For Vendetta one when she is at her angriest.

This book made me appreciate how comparatively simple my own forays into retail were, although I think anyone who's worked in the industry at any level would recognize the way the system treats the people at the bottom of the totem pole.

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