BOOK HOOK: “JOBS FOR GIRLS WITH ARTISTIC FLAIR” BY JUNE GERVAIS
Updated: Dec 31, 2022
I first met June Gervais in October when I attended her workshop at the Lit Youngstown Fall Literary Festival entitled “Persevering To Publication: Some Practical Tips.” June spoke eloquently, passionately, and emotionally about her twenty-year journey to writing the first words of her novel and actually having it published. Her workshop was absolutely amazing. I had an opportunity to speak with her briefly after the workshop, and I must confess, I had just a bit of a “girl crush.” The word “perseverance” has become incredibly significant to me, and I have adopted it as my guiding word for 2023.
The novel is set in 1985 Long Island, and the main character in Jobs For Girls With Artistic Flair is awkward and introverted Gina Mulley. More than anything else, Gina desires to become a tattoo artist working along side her brother, Dominic, at “Mulley’s Tattoo” in Bear Claw. However, her brother has different ideas for Gina, and the novel begins with him scrawling out a list of possible occupations for her with the caption JOBS FOR GIRLS WITH ARTISTIC FLAIR.
On the surface, the novel is about Gina’s quest to achieve her goal of becoming a female tattoo artist, which was rare in 1985. However, it goes much deeper than that.
During Gina’s journey, she must deal with difficult interconnections with her brother, Dominic; her mother, Stella; Nicolas, a peculiar psychic; Jeri, Dominic’s girlfriend and benefactor; and a developing relationship with her friend, Anna. There are a couple of insights in the novel that spoke to me. One is when Gina and Anna are discussing their day, and Gina said that she had some “useful epiphanies about my job.” She then said, “I need to be more like a seagull.” The other is when Gina is having a discussion with her friend and tattoo artist, Rick, who tells her that tattooing is like being a bartender or a barber and that, “if you want to have a mission in life, that’s not a bad one, to be a listener.”
I also learned a lot about tattoo culture, which I knew extraordinarily little about despite watching LA Ink years ago. I have toyed in my mind with getting a tattoo, but I’m way too chicken, and I have no idea what I would get. I almost passed out when I had my nipple pierced almost 30 years ago. I no longer have the piercing. The revelation to me of what tattooing and tattoos mean is the passage, “A tattoo wasn’t just a decal on your body. It was something invisible made visible. A truth you’d kept to yourself that you were finally willing to have in the open. To be seen.”
As I alluded to above, the novel is much more than Gina’s quest to become a tattoo artist. It is a journey of self-discovery, a quest to answer the universal question of “Who am I?” A journey to find “the whole Gina.” This is something that I can strongly identify with for obvious reasons.
I very highly recommend June’s novel, and there are certainly some very tense and emotional moments. Jobs For Girls With Artistic Flair is published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House, and is available on Amazon and at your local library.
Barbara Marie Minney is a transgender woman, award-winning poet, writer, speaker, and quiet activist. She is a retired attorney and a seventh generation Appalachian. Now based in Tallmadge, Ohio, her first collection of poetry entitled “If There’s No Heaven” was the winner of the 2020 Poetry Is Life Book Award and the Akron Beacon Journal Best Northeast Ohio Books 2020. It is available at www.poetryislifepublishing.com.Barbara is also the author of the "Poetic Memoir Chapbook Challenge." Follow her at www.barbaramarieminneypoetry.com.