Book Review

Spinning by Tillie Walden

spinning tillie walden

Genre | Contemporary Fiction Graphic Novel
Page #s | 400
Publishing Date | September 2017

Poignant and captivating, Ignatz Award winner Tillie Walden’s powerful graphic memoir, Spinning, captures what it’s like to come of age, come out, and come to terms with leaving behind everything you used to know.

It was the same every morning. Wake up, grab the ice skates, and head to the rink while the world was still dark.

Weekends were spent in glitter and tights at competitions. Perform. Smile. And do it again.

She was good. She won. And she hated it.

For ten years, figure skating was Tillie Walden’s life. She woke before dawn for morning lessons, went straight to group practice after school, and spent weekends competing at ice rinks across the state. It was a central piece of her identity, her safe haven from the stress of school, bullies, and family. But over time, as she switched schools, got into art, and fell in love with her first girlfriend, she began to question how the close-minded world of figure skating fit in with the rest of her life, and whether all the work was worth it given the reality: that she, and her friends on the figure skating team, were nowhere close to Olympic hopefuls. It all led to one question: What was the point? The more Tillie thought about it, the more Tillie realized she’d outgrown her passion–and she finally needed to find her own voice.


I fell in love with Tillie Waldon’s art style and storytelling ability when I read On a Sunbeam. Spinning is an entirely different story, but it retains the same self-reflective, honest heart. In this graphic novel, Waldon shares the story of her childhood; it centers on her experiences as an ice skater but includes much more.

Walden was an anxious, perfectionistic kid, so this story is incredibly relatable! She is harder on herself than anyone else is (excluding the odd coach here and there), and she doggedly continues her ice skating career even though she doesn’t actually enjoy it very much. It’s heartbreaking, and such an accurate portrayal of the powerlessness and confusion of being a kid.

In addition to ice skating, the major theme is Walden’s acceptance of her attraction to women, and the reactions of those around her. Her various comings out are drawn in a series of panels that capture the gamut of reactions you can expect, from positive to negative to those comments that you tell yourself are positive but still contain a kernel of judgment.

Although it isn’t a dramatic book, necessarily, there is a slow empowerment that builds in Walden that is far more realistic than is portrayed in most books. It is the small moments when she stands up for herself and makes her own choices that resonate.

Who Do I Recommend This Book To?

Spinning is the book to give to your friend who doesn’t think graphic novels are books in order to prove them wrong.

Check out our Queer Lil Library for more book recommendations and reviews!

2 comments on “Spinning by Tillie Walden

  1. Pingback: Roar Cat Reads Book Suggestions for Our 2022 LGBTQ+ Summer Book Bingo – Roar Cat Reads

  2. Pingback: Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe – Roar Cat Reads

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