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Bump on Road, bump on. -- Courtney, Feministing.org
Carmencita Gutierrez Alonzo (Car), the narrator of Cristy C. Road's ingenious debut novel, Bad Habits, is out to find love and clarity -- two abstractions, she's well aware, that do not always fit together in a tidy package. Largely autobiographical, Bad Habits chronicles the year Car moved up north, away from her Cuban roots and hometown of Miami, Fla. Road uses New York City with all of its grit and glamour, history and gentrification, as a metaphor for Car's own transformation: "As the clocks ticked timelessly and the humans aged blindly, every antique corner of New York City was in danger of destruction." What makes Car such an engaging and ultimately sympathetic character is she is at once intelligent, compassionate and witty, but also extremely destructive. Many elements distract or -- depending upon how you look at it -- further her journey, from her manic depression and history of sexual abuse to her drug binges ("You have to accept any chemically altered state of mind as a legitimate human feeling") and pervious heart. Though her intentions are good, old habits, especially bad ones, are hard to break. At one point, Car reflects, "Slouching the carpet, a desire to construct happiness envelopes me, and I forget that true love exists (somewhere, with whomever, and whatever caliber of love it may be) while I sat here, nose burning in surrender." Car considers the "potential for love" with many characters, but three haunt her throughout the narrative: Sally, a one-night stand that leaves Car bewildered, just a little bit in love, and with a bloody left nipple; her former lover, the beautiful and unattainable Tatiana; and the adorable train wreck, Ashby, whose decision to leave in order to "find himself" only makes Car's heart beat faster. Car's roommate and friends help her navigate this thorny path by providing the right amount of support (or drugs) and the occasional voice of reason to challenge her attempts to justify these relationships. So you're addicted to love, they seem to say, who isn't? And in the end, Car does begin to move forward, if only in baby steps, rather than repeating yet another circle. Road's prose is edgy and her social critique razor sharp. Appropriately compared to other transgressive writers like Michelle Tea and William S. Burroughs, her deft illustrations help distinguish her voice. Her work has been published in a variety of collections, including We Don't Need Another Wave: Dispatches from the Next Generation of Feminists, Baby Remember My Name, and Live Through This. She has given readings and showings of her art throughout the country, and joined Sister Spit's national tour last spring. --Heather A O'Neill, Afterellen.com
Bad Habits roams in fits and starts and with many detours through a slice of a young woman's life dominated by drama, drugs, sex, and identity musings. Our protagonist, Cristy Road, is Cuban-American punk from Florida who finds herself in New York City's underground queer punk community as the city struggles to maintain its character in the face of gentrification. The struggles of NYC against development provides a fitting backdrop for Road's struggles to overcome the injuries inflicted by an absentee father, damaging early encounters, and the struggle to hold on to a strong sense of self and identity in the face of a homophobic, white supremacist, pro-conformity world. <BR> The characters who populate this book, from the tarot card reading hippy, to the fabulous drag queens, fags, and mysterious German queer girls, each carry a bit of damage, chaos, and harsh reality, as well as magic and tenacity that mirrors the magic, tenacity, damage, chaos, and harsh realities that Road embodies and works to over come. Hampered in her efforts to find true love and healthy sexual relationships and bad sex, she attempts to find authenticity through heavy drug use, but the experiences and connections that feel authentic on a mushroom trip or jacked up on cocaine lose their luster when the drugs wear off, and often end up inflicting that much more damage. Ultimately, our protagonist ends up with a broken heart, but a cleanly broken heart, a genuine and authentic experience of heartbreak that makes it clear that love- and authenticity- is possible even without drugs. Road's illustrations fill the book, sometimes offering of the direct visual of the story, and at other times, offering a parallel narrative. The people in Road's illustrations are vibrant, crusty, beautifully drawn, and so familiar. Many of the drawings are beautiful and ugly at the same time, adding a gritty realism to each page. A common thread of the illustrations shows internal organs and removed body parts in cringe-worthy, gory graphics that manage to be repulsive even as they evoke stronger and deeper emotions. However, none are quite so poignant as the one showing our protagonist walking away from her breakup, her heart torn from her chest, bloody and dangling, but still attached. Where Road's words describe what happened, her illustrations show how it felt. --Rahula Janowski, Left Turn Magazine
Bad Habits is a semi-autobiographical, illustrated tale of sex, drug abuse, and drama (with a big D) by zine publisher and illustrator Cristy C. Road. Set within the grungy confines of multiple Brooklyn locales and even a brief drug-fueled return to the shores of Florida, the book follows Road's alter-ego as she dives headfirst into strained romantic dalliances with both sexes, snorts pounds of cocaine, and tries to come to grips with who she ultimately is, leaving everything in a wake of tears and bitter recriminations in the meantime. <BR> A colorful collection of outcasts fills the pages -- like the train-jumper Smith or cross-dressing roommate Rhonda -- but the focus of Bad Habits never strays far from unnecessarily dense first-person complaints and cries stuffed in draining, heart-damaged purple prose that all too often strays into melodramatic-teenage-diary territory. <BR> Road gets big ups for creatively dealing with her story with undeniable verve and energy, but after awhile, the self-pitying prose wears thin. There's nothing wrong with loving a little drama, but the characters in Bad Habits need to get a grip. --Adam Schragin, Venus Zine
Cristy Road is infamous for her gender queer, sex positive drawings and her rowdy narratives about the dingy underground. Bad Habits is no exception. This is her second novel, following 2006's Indestructible, with about twice the content - closing in on nearly 200 pages of heavy analogies and gritty illustrations. Through the protagonist Carmencita, a Cuban-American Miami transplant living in New York, Road weaves a story about surviving in an ever-changing city. Often using the cityscape as a metaphor, she explores the connections between race, class, gender, and madness. Cristy Road's unique voice creates vibrant scenery and equally vibrant characters. Her fluorescent descriptions of the simultaneously tattered, decaying, yet magical atmosphere of New York City evoke likeness to the otherworldly narratives of Francesca Lia Block. Bad Habits is a circus of our favorite freaks: the punks, the drag queens, the queers, the assholes, the drunks, and the junkies. It's about trauma and depression, vulnerability and isolation. Road explores the bipolar nature of a dilapidated city and a decaying Coney Island. Actually, bipolar nature seems to be a theme - between Carmencita's drug-ridden ups and downs, self-assurance and self-doubt, decay vs. gentrification - the concrete world of New York City easily becomes a mirror for the contradictions of the human heart. Particularly exciting is Cristy Road's dip into magical realism, acknowledging drug-induced trips and Carmencita's own internalized psyche as valid, actual, experience. Carmencita says, "You have to accept any chemically altered state of mind as a legitimate human feeling." Carmencita's troubled existence emphasizes the simultaneous necessity of community support, family and friend-style, as well as the shortcomings of said communities. Through brutal vulgarity and brutal honesty, Carmencita will not let us forget that in order to love each other, we must love ourselves first. <BR> It is nearly impossible not to identify with one of the characters in Bad Habits, as each of them struggles with the pangs of every day existence on the fringes. What is the connection between capitalism and madness? How do we navigate the schizophrenic lifestyle of working to live, and creating a world that we can feel safe in? What happens when our desires are cast aside? The carnage is palpable in Bad Habits, as we enter a world where the answer to these questions often results in self-medication, self-destruction, and addiction. Cristy Road's salty language and unabashed enthusiasm to talk about booze, sex, and drugs often leads to immediate comparison with male authors. Road's work may involve a lot of traditionally male subject matter, however, her voice has a lot more to do with weaving reality and fantasy together, creating a fresh, contemporary take on magic realist tradition. Bad Habits is a large step in defining the author's narrative voice, and left me waiting for the next big thing from Cristy Road. -- Kate Wadkins, Maximumrocknroll