February 25, 2022 • By Christine Pasalo Norland
The Breadth of Trinidad Escobar's Arrive In My Hands
Published by Black Josei Press, Trinidad Escobar's Arrive In My Hands is a collection of 22 Queer erotic comics, poem-comics, and illustrations that surges off the page like desire released from dormancy.
"Asian women are hypersexualized in media and fetishized as submissive objects in daily life," wrote Escobar on February 14 when she announced the digital release of Arrive In My Hands on Instagram. "I wanted to make a book on sexuality and sensuality on my own terms."
To be clear: Arrive In My Hands is for mature readers only. In practice, this means the collection is intended for people who are at least 18 years old. But the depictions, positions, and allusions illustrated and written by the Filipina cartoonist are also not here for adults who mine their insecurities and prejudices to project them onto a work and sell their reading as quintessential. Arrive is for those who are capable of approaching art and erotica with curiosity, self reflection, and grace.
When given the opportunity to review an advanced digital copy, I was nervous. Mine is the lens of a cishet Pinay raised in a family so devoutly Catholic that I'm more prone to associate "passion" and "mystery" with saying the rosary. Sex isn't spoken of outright, and when it's alluded to, it's coded in questions of procreation. "Ay, are you pregnant yet?" "When will you have another baby?" I also wondered if it was my place to share my experience of a work celebrating the range of Queer femme identities and relationships.
And then I read it. I took in all of the brown skin tones, the black waves of hair, the subdued pinks, the midnight and saturated blues, the goldenrod yellows. The line curves. The shapes. The angles and views.
I sat with the tension and release of each story, then reflected on the collection's progression, zeniths, and resoluteness. While it is for my Queer sisters to speak to how this collection may or may not sing of their experiences, I realized that I can speak to the way Arrive made me feel as a woman. And as a Pinay, I’m grateful for the ways Escobar's work particularly reclaims being Filipina. For someone conditioned to see their value determined by their ability to birth heirs and prolong bloodlines, Arrive challenged me to recenter myself. It serves revelation and revolution: I can exist for me. I can be my own starting point, milestone, and goal.
THIS PART OF THE REVIEW INCLUDES SPOILERS. TO READ, TAP THE DOWN ARROW.
Arrive In My Hands is captivating for showing how women have always found fulfillment by themselves and with each other. Serene ancestral-like moments like those in "Weather" and "Ocean Sounds" appear between comics set in contemporary times like "Thursdays, 3 PM," "Sinister Laughter," and "Little Goth Mouse," alluding to the timelessness of these truths. With several comics punctuated by familiar Philippine references, like the Filipiñana-style dress in the comic "Arrive In My Hands" co-written with Meredith Hobbs Coons and the babaylan and nipa hut in the comic "Two Witches," readers also can't ignore the idea that these absolutes have long been a part of Philippine culture.
The illustrated feelings and relationships are also as real and rooted as the environment. The femme-on-femme connections often take place amidst lush and expansive earthbound elements, colors, and spaces: the forest in "Devil's Bluff," the mountainscape and trees in "You Grew Up By Climbin' The Birches So High" (see the excerpt below), the water in "Fever of Stingrays," the blooms in "Everlasting: A Dark Fairy Tale." Each piece aligns the women, their desires, and their actions to nature, to being abundantly natural.
What I'm most humbled by is the way this sacred agency is non negotiable, how such fulfillment is pursued in full awareness of the ways it can be viewed as threatening and confronted with violence… and is lived anyway because it makes life worth living. I found this best exemplified in the apocalyptic "Patient & Seething" and the medieval and magical "Everlasting: A Dark Fairy Tale."
On the whole, Arrive In My Hands lays bare a compelling testimony of what is possible when a (Filipina) woman (re)claims love and pleasure for herself. In showing women with sexual agency prioritizing their own needs and choosing each other as partners, Escobar’s work breathes like a resource, providing a language and imagery that reassures and validates.
“It’s a feat to try and sell erotica to my peoples who come from a sexually repressed religious country,” wrote Escobar on Instagram on February 14. “But here we are doing goddess work!”
The digital version of Arrive In My Hands is currently available, starting at $10. A variety of product bundles are also available that include limited edition print illustrations with the physical copy of the book which is expected to release in June 2022.
BONUS: Watch a replay of our IG Live interview with Trinidad Escobar!
IMAGES COURTESY OF BLACK JOSEI PRESS • TAGS: ART NEWS, ESSAYS