‘Chin Up, Dreamboat’ is the breakup coloring book that lesbians need

The onset of spring is a beautiful time, but for many it’s also breakup season. Not every couple makes it through the depressing isolation of winter, and some hang in just long enough to have someone to keep them warm before the sun returns and brings a giant reality check along with it.

Nawwal Moustafa is only 26, but she’s already been through a lesbian divorce. The Portland, Oregon-based comedian and illustrator knows firsthand just how epically devastating the lesbian breakup can be. Instead of wallowing in the pain, however, she channeled it into the creation of a coloring book designed to help her fellow queer women through the tough times.

Moustafa’s coloring book, Chin Up, Dreamboat! A Creative Companion for Lesbian Breakups, is slated for publication in May. The entire project is self-funded, so Moustafa—a teacher working with at-risk kids by day—took to Kickstarter to cover printing costs.

The Kickstarter campaign surpassed its original fundraising goal of $1,200 in just five hours, then quickly doubled the amount. “Breakups can make you feel stupid, like ‘why did I ever do that,'” Moustafa told the Daily Dot, explaining her inspiration. “There’s a big emphasis in this book on the fact that you’re not alone. You aren’t the only one who ever made a mistake. People can relate.”

When Moustafa was separating from her ex, she talked with people in her community and discovered that a lot of the clichés about lesbian relationships had some truth to them. “The stereotypes of the U-haul and the toothbrush on the first date, it’s real,” Moustafa said. “There’s so much depth in relationships with women. When you date someone of your same sex, there aren’t as many things to divide you. They really are your best friend.”

Moustafa acknowledged that breakups are hard for everyone, but said that for lesbians, there’s a tendency to go very deep, very quickly. And when women become inseparable within days, move in together and nest within weeks, and generally merge their lives with an intensity that surpasses most other pairings, the eventual split can be a severe and traumatic shock.

Excerpt from Chin Up, Dreamboat by Nawwal Moustafa

All kinds of self-help guides exist for heterosexual breakups, especially for women moving on from men who are “just not that into you.” But the therapeutic options focused on relationships between women are minimal. That’s disappointing not only for lesbians, but for all women who tend to bond very deeply with close female friends—ask any woman who’s ever fallen out with her best friend, and she’ll tell you it’s a split that can truly rock your world.

Illustrating a coloring book was a no-brainer for Moustafa: she grew up in an art-making family that includes her brother Ibrahim Moustafa, an Eisner award-winning comic book artist best known for the digital series High Crimes and for his work on DC Comics titles like Dr. Fate. Moustafa’s own comedy background helps keep Chin Up, Dreamboat lighthearted, as well. She’s a member of two Northwest comedy troupes: Yep! and Black By Popular Demand, and regularly performs at Portland’s popular queer comedy show, Lez Stand Up. When approaching a painful and convoluted subject, it helps to be able to mock the stereotypes that rear their hilarious heads during what Moustafa said are the three main phases of breaking up.

“The first part talks about when it was good, when you met on the rugby team,” Moustafa told the Daily Dot. “The second part is dividing up the camping gear, who gets the tickets to the Brandi Carlisle concert, who gets the cat. Then the end is like, It Gets Better, and… you’ll be emotionally available soon. You can start riding your bike to work, taking bubble baths for self-care, crushing on the girl at the farmer’s market.”

The book’s Kickstarter success took Moustafa by surprise: she hadn’t expected to meet the fundraising goal so quickly when the campaign launched last Friday. By Wednesday, she had added new stretch goals featuring swag like “Emotionally Available” T-shirts and a portion of books to be donated to LGBT resource centers and school Gay-Straight Alliance groups.

Chin Up, Dreamboat’s Kickstarter campaign ends on March 13 and by then, Moustafa hopes to have enough backers to fund multiple print runs of the coloring book. The incentive swag—tote bags, t-shirts, and pencils with the CUDB logo—will be available permanently on the project’s website.

For the recently split, the book serves not only to comfort but to engage—idle hands, after all, lead to excessive self-torture through stalking your ex’s Facebook and Instagram photos. “I have a very strong love for things that get people involved,” said Moustafa. “Especially in this scenario, it’s asking you to finish me, to fill me in. It’s taking things that might not be ideal and figuring out a way for it to be fun and to be worth it.”

Illustration excerpt from Chin Up, Dreamboat by Nawwal Moustafa

Mary Emily O'Hara

Mary Emily O'Hara

Mary Emily O'Hara is an LGBTQ reporter. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, NBC Out, Daily Dot, Broadly, Vice, the Daily Beast, the Advocate, Huffington Post, DNAinfo, Al Jazeera, and Portland's Pulitzer Prize-winning newsweekly Willamette Week, among other outlets.