Book blurb: Twelve women, twelve tattoos, and a narrative thread that weaves them all together, Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook is a collection of stories that answers that lingering question in the back of your mind when you see an inked woman: what does your tattoo mean (or perhaps – what were you thinking)? From a parent’s suicide to the birth of an unlikely child, the stories behind why women tattoo themselves are literally worn on (and sometimes under) their sleeves, and retold on these pages.
Complete with artwork from the original tattoo artists and a foreword by Dr. Marta Vicente, one of academia’s foremost voices in Women’s Studies, this series of literary vignettes celebrates real, everyday women and their tattoos that, while they may seem insignificant at the time, are a symbol of the larger struggles and triumphs that make them who they are. These stories explore the idea of tattoos bringing together women from different worlds, and teaching them how these worlds might not be as far apart as they think.
Portrait of Woman: A Tattoo Storybook appealed to me as it was like no book I had read before. There is a chain of twelve fictional short stories, each one focusing on a separate main female character who subsequently decides to have a tattoo based on life events at the time. It is a group of interlinking stories behind each character and each tattoo. And the links between the stories are excellent as they are characters from previous stories.
After reading the first story and beginning the second I could really enjoy how the main character of the second story followed on from story 1, rather than have completely fresh characters. Each woman has been (or is going through) their own life changing moments and, although fictional, Kelly I. Hitchcock has written very real characters and stories.
Having tattoo’s myself I appreciate how there is a story behind each one, a great deal of influence and thought goes into having them, not forgetting the experience itself. Therefore, I found it easy to relate to Portrait of Woman. A single tattoo can tell a story of one event/stage in a person’s life that leaves an imprint not only on the body but on the mind too! It is a reminder, a feeling that no one else completely understands but you. This book takes you to those places, those events in these women’s lives.
I cannot carry on without mentioning the beautiful illustrations at the beginning of each short story of the tattoo that the particular story is regarding. This provides the reader with a visual, an idea of the kind of tattoo the characters wants/has, and in many cases as idea of the story/meaning. It is obvious that the author has planned each story, each tattoo, each character and each link very well. This enables each story to flow into the next with ease.
Portrait of Woman in Ink is written well with easy to follow short stories. The short story factor makes it easier for the reader to read in instalments if you haven’t the chance to read for lengthy periods. Each story provides enough details about the main characters’ life for the reader to have an understanding and hopefully relate to the character. However, I did find myself wanting a little more in some instances where I thought the author could have elaborated on the experience of having the tattoo done and maybe gone into detail about what family and friends thoughts were on the tattoo’s.
Kelly I. Hitchcock will really open your mind about tattoo’s and those that have them. This book surely made me think about each of mine! Whether it be to educate, help relate to or indeed influence a decision you will be left thinking about the various styles and meanings of tattoos. And if you enjoy life-like stories this could be a great book for you.
A copy of Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook (published by Bird Brain Publishing) was received gratefully for the purpose of an honest and fair review.
Reviewed by Caroline Barker