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(W) M.S. Harkness
Time Under Tension is a smart, funny, no bullshit
work of autobiography, a story of searching for dignity
in a world that rarely affords it and taking agency of
adulthood in the face of so many easy excuses not to.
M.S. Harkness is graduating from art school in Minneapolis and
facing a crossroads in life. She has a strained relationship with her
mother, a sexually abusive father on parole, and is in love with an
aspiring MMA fighter who mostly hangs out with her to get high and
already has a girlfriend and career prospects with a fight promoter.
An art career feels untenable - as one professor tells her, "Don't
expect to get by on this fucked-up broke girl shit." She decides to
get a personal trainer's certificate - it seems like a feasible and
sensible career option - but continues to dabble as a sex worker
and weed dealer because the money is too irresistible. With idle
hands due to no classes or full-time work, M.S. has ample time to
aimlessly fuck around - or, to get her shit together. "I want to be
better; I want to be stable and solid. I don't want to keep aimlessly
shifting between untenable situations."
Harkness's bold, precise black-and-white cartooning and eye for storytelling
invites the reader in, while her sharp wit and naturalist ear as a writer takes it away
from there. Never didactic, always real, Time Under Tension is a spirited and assured
work of graphic memoir.
M.S. Harkness was born in Oklahoma and lives in Columbus, Ohio. She has been
featured on the New Yorker's "Daily Shouts Page," is a recipient of the Minnesota
State Arts Board Visual Artist Grant, and occasionally teaches comics at the Columbus
College of Art and Design. Her previous works include Tinderella and Desperate
Pleasures (both from Uncivilized Books).

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