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Becoming Unbecoming

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  2,663 ratings  ·  469 reviews
A devastating personal account of gender violence told in comic book form, set against the backdrop of the 1970s Yorkshire Ripper man-hunt

It’s 1977 and Una is 12. Other kids are into punk or ska, but Una is learning to play "Mull of Kintyre" by Wings on the guitar, and she thinks it’s a really good song. There's another song, chanted on the terraces by Leeds United fans.
Paperback, 224 pages
Published September 30th 2015 by Myriad Editions
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Average rating 4.28  · 
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 ·  2,663 ratings  ·  469 reviews

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Jan Philipzig
I have never heard of Una before in my life, but Becoming Unbecoming is easily one of the most important and thought-provoking graphic memoirs I have ever read. On the one hand, it is the unflinching personal account of the sexual/gender violence cartoonist Una had to endure while growing up in Yorkshire, England, during the 1970s and 80s. On the other, it is also the furious yet clear-headed outcry against a deeply sexist culture that produces gendered violence and allows it to flourish by blam ...more
David Schaafsma
Una's Yorkshire memoir of her own sexual violence, set against the seventies story of the Yorkshire "Ripper," Peter Sutcliffe, a serial killer who killed 13 women from 1975-1980. The police spent more than two million man-hours failing to solve the case, including interviewing the killer himself nine times before they finally figured it out. Una, an artist and academic and comics creator, worked seven years on this book in a broader societal sense to explore why it is the (male) police had so tr ...more
[Shai] Bibliophage
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphic-novels
Becoming Unbecoming is one of the best informative graphic novel I came across. It provides a lot of useful facts about sexual assaults, misogyny, and victim blaming. I highly recommend this to all, particularly to women, as this will enlighten everyone on how society sometimes perceived victims to be also at fault.

It also shows on how the suspect lives or acts as if they haven’t done anything wrong that fools everyone especially the authorities. If ever you see a copy of this, don’t lose the c
Sep 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
In Autumn 2014 I first came across the so-called “Women against feminism” campaign on the internet. My reaction to it included confusion, outrage and outright anger! Women? Against feminism? But then I started to wonder what these women think feminism is? Is it an understanding of the word which has been so regularly tainted by (often male) ridicule? Was man-hating, hairy arm pits and Germaine Greer mentioned?
I wish I could send Una’s book to all those women who publically stated they don’t nee
lucky little cat
The author-artist Una would be the first to tell you that yes, she has an agenda in this memoir.
We follow the main character from childhood to teen years as she suffers bullying and molestation and tells no one.

The art is quiet, powerful, and frequently ironic. For example, see the cover art which shows our main character literally hanging on to her silence for dear life. This is an elegant and sincere indictment of social shaming of women and male violence against them, including researched ev
Joanne Harris
Stunning graphic novel, addressing some very tough issues with clarity and compassion. Haunting, articulate, brave and intelligent. All girls should read this. All women will understand it.
Dov Zeller
In a book addressing Una's own struggle to cope with sexual predation and social exclusion, and about a large-scale cultural acceptance of, no, support of male violence against girls and women, Una opens the book with a sobering dedication: "Dedicated to all the others." Who are all these "others"? Perhaps victims of rape and assault (the numbers are staggering), or a little more broadly, victims of a toxic patriarchal culture that breeds toxic and predatory masculinities. Maybe girls and women ...more
Dec 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An utterly incredible graphic memoir about societies attitudes to women and the victim blaming culture that prevails and ceases to disappear.
Sep 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphic-novel
INCREDIBLE. Possibly the best graphic novel I've ever read. I interviewed Una for The F-Word - check it:
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow! This is one of the most powerful books I have ever read. Una tells her personal story while placing it in the context of the community she grew up in and our culture in general. It should be required reading for everyone. The copy I read was borrowed from the library, but I plan to purchase a copy to share with friends.
Elizabeth A
Jun 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I'd never heard of this author or graphic memoir, and am so grateful to my Goodreads friends whose reviews of it put in on my radar. This might well be the most thought provoking and important graphic memoir I've ever read. The author uses words and art to tell the heartbreaking account of the violence she experienced growing up, and then juxtaposes her personal story against a national serial killer story playing out in the media at that time. She explores how societal and cultural attitudes to ...more
May 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such an important story and message. Sickening, harrowing and raw, yet beautifully executed.
Aug 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: borrowed, august-2019
Startling and powerful. I loved the illustration style particularly, and the sparse use of colour.
Denver Public Library
Apr 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hana, graphic-novel
Starting as a benign coming of age graphic memoir, Una’s tale grows extremely dark as the stage is set for an exploration of gender violence and abuse in late 1970’s Yorkshire. With thin, wispy illustrations, Una blends her story of growing up while being surrounded by the devastating murders perpetrated by the Yorkshire Ripper, a serial killer that terrorized women in the English towns of Leeds and Bradford. The Yorkshire Ripper targeted prostitutes and once caught, claimed his actions were mot ...more
Jul 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
It is difficult to attempt to rate a book that is based on a person's life experience. Although this book is based on Una's life, it is a dual narrative about the victims of England's Yorkshire Ripper.

Una discussed society's attitudes toward her after the violations she experienced as well as the police's attitudes towards victims of the Yorkshire Ripper. The police made assumptions that all of the victims were involved in prostitution and if the victim didn't fit the mold, they neglected to con
Stewart Tame
May 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Wow. This was not at all what I was expecting. It resists easy summary, but I suppose I'll give it a go. There's some autobiography here. Una grows up during the 70's. She is raped and/or molested on several occasions, but doesn't talk about it, partly because she has no frame of reference for what happened the first time. Rumors spread. She becomes ostracized at school, develops depression, tries various therapies, etc. This is set against the background of the Yorkshire Ripper murders. Details ...more
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
It started so promisingly. Absolutely gripping. And I can see what you were trying to do - and I applaud it. But at the half way point, to me the book lost it's power and you lost me with all the facts, figures and the density of the psychology behind the gender imbalance and perceptions of good and bad girls. I know this was part of your story and I am not sure how it could have been done differently. The imagery was on point and absorbing.
I think it important that the story be told and shared
Hannah Garden
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Good god this book is incredible. Beautiful and devastating.
Incredibly condemning of a society that violates, belittles, and ignores women on a daily basis. Una tells two stories: that of her own childhood living with sexual violence and that of the Yorkshire Ripper, who murdered 13 women in the 1970s. She makes connections between peers slutshaming/critizing her behavior (though she was being raped and abused) and between the police's tunnel vision that the Yorkshire Ripper was murdering sex workers, therefore not taking it as seriously (P.S of course h ...more
I was really impressed by Una's tone throughout this graphic novel. She discusses her own pain and vulnerability with such frankness, nearly to the point of (understandable) detachment; yet it never feels impersonal. It worked well to use the terror of the Yorkshire Ripper as a way to examine both the larger issue of misogynist violence and Una's own experiences with sexual assault.

It is quite horrifying that Una's recollection of the cultural climate of four decades ago is still so relevant. Ma
John  Mihelic
Feb 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Picked this up off the shelf, sight unseen.

It was a smart pick.

The story is about a young woman, growing up.

The background is the hunt for the so-called “Yorkshire” Ripper, a serial killer who was tracking down women and killing them.

The killer took too long to get caught because the people looking for him were incompetent. They were incompetent in that they were men who made unfair assumptions about women.

All the men do. Though there is the backdrop of the useless police, the story can be seen
This was a really great book that I feel like I should have paid more attention to. I may re-read it at another time because I wasn't able to focus enough attention to it as it is. I really liked that Una didn't spend any time describing her assaults in detail - sometimes you don't want to retell stories that are painful, sometimes your memories are hazy and you can't recall how things happened. Details aren't important in this story. Overall a good story about structural and societal sexism and ...more
Rebecca McNutt
I love books set in the 1970's and this graphic novel is definitely no exception. A powerful, shocking and moving account of a girl who experiences gender violence first hand, Becoming Unbecoming is a book that everyone should read.
Sujin Stone
Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
It's a beautifully drawn graphic memoir on a very dark and painful personal experiences. I hope people don't take away the seriousness of the subject just because it's written in the comic way.
I'm glad I found this book and read it!
mad mags
Oct 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Raw, powerful, necessary.

(Trigger warning for violence against women, including rape.)

Canon Gordon Croney, vicar of Leeds, considers police-controlled houses of prostitution to be impractical. "I know it's an easy answer, but I believe it could make the problem worse," he said.

"If prostitutes came under police protection, then it could make a psychopath like the Ripper prey on innocent women."


So many popular cultural monuments to Sutcliffe have been built by men. Perhaps it's easier to see i
Jan 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“So, the first two women to die from their injuries led complicated lives. Was that what made them prostitutes? Before them, the first three women to survive attacks were: i. A woman in the middle of an argument with a boyfriend ii. A woman on her way home from the pub. ii. A teenager in unsuitable shoes. Two of these women were described by police as having loose morals. The other was ignored.”

This is easily the best book I have read all year, even if it is only Jan 2. I found this really uncom
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comics
There’s a lot going on in Becoming Unbecoming. So much that I had to put the book down every couple of pages just to process what I was reading. This is not only Una’s memoir depicting her experiences of being sexually assaulted, but also the story of the Yorkshire Ripper, who targeted women over the course of a few years before he was finally caught. One of the reoccurring themes throughout this book? Women not only being repeatedly assaulted but also blamed for it.

“Why is the idea that women
A woman processes her own history of sexual assault through the concurrent Yorkshire Ripper investigation. This combination of elements is hugely successful, each piece finding context in the other to explore gendered violence as a personal experience that exists within a national and worldwide social structure. It's intimate, critical, and complex, and I wish the book restrained itself to this powerful premise. Instead the middle third falls apart, growing into broader, abstracted, more familia ...more
tm ♡
Oct 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-reads
What a powerful book. I’m genuinely speechless and can’t articulate my thoughts on this graphic novel, other than to say that it was raw and so informative and encouraging.
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