Erika Lopez,
Flaming Iguanas
(Simon & Schuster, 1997)

Erika Lopez is my hero.

Not only is this book written in a girlfriend, hilarious style, it's designed with crazy fonts and original clipart that makes it a visual treat as well as a literary one. She takes the story of one woman and turns it into a wise-cracking, rebel road trip tale that made me want to hop out of my chair and buy a bike. And that, to me, is the testament of true genius.

Like every good road trip plot, the decision to go west was made on a whim. After a very bad set of circumstances and a run-in with a cat named Snowball that she promptly kills with her Vespa (the closest she'd ever been to a motorcycle in her life), Tomato Rodriguez is ready to take to the road dressed in leather and denim. She buys a cycle, learns to ride at 35 mph, and takes her best friend (and, incidentally, the former owner of the aforementioned Snowball, who was cremated after its untimely death) Magdelena on the ride of her life.

Lopez never backs down. It's one of the things that makes this book a great beach novel -- every page has something new. A new character, a new illustration, or a new situation that leaves one of the girls wiser on her trip from sea to shining sea. Very in-your-face, Tomato learns not only to ride her purchased cycle, but also that her very self is changing -- which is woven into the book artfully.

Vintage clip art and line drawings have been incorporated into the book, often creating visual puns that you don't catch right away. For instance, a section discussing her lack of bladder control when she laughs is accompanied by a woodblock of someone in an undersea suit.

Incidentally, Erika not only wrote the book, but illustrated it, as well. It's her font, and her choice of illustration that accompanies the text. She is, you come to find out as the novel progresses, an incredible artist.

One important thing to know is that this is a book about a woman who discovers her sexuality. The adult themes would make this book a touchy subject for anyone who is offended by, or threatened by, female homosexuality. I know, I know. It shouldn't be an issue, but it is, and I'd rather not have a bunch of people e-mailing me about how I recommended this horrible lesbo book if I can cut that off at the pass with a warning. Call it my foray into political correctness.

Other than that, for open-minded women with a road-trip rebellion streak, this could be your favorite book ever.

If you buy this book, you won't be disappointed. The artwork and storytelling will leave you in stitches, if not inspiring you to run off from your day-to-day life to be a cycle mama. I can't recommend it highly enough. Both the book, and the escape.

[ by Elizabeth Badurina ]

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