When 16-year-old Sophia, the main character in “Passport,” realizes her parents are spies, so many things make sense — moving around so much, living under security in Central America, her family’s culture of secrecy. But even with this revelation, she still has to get through high school and the struggles that come with it for every teenager.
“Passport” is the true story of Sophia Wiedeman Glock ’04, told and illustrated in her graphic memoir for young adult readers.
“In my book I talk about reinventing yourself and having to start over again and again and again and again. But ultimately you don’t have to have parents who are spies to have that experience,” Glock says. “It’s typical to being an adolescent. The reality of my parents’ careers almost functions as a metaphor for being a young person, figuring out who you are.”
Glock started reading comics at age 12 with the “X-Men” series. But, after feeling like those comics weren’t written for her as a young woman, she discovered the world of independent comics. It ignited her dream to write her own.
Being a William & Mary student was also her dream. She decided to attend when she was just 7 years old, on one of the handful of trips to the U.S. she took with her parents.
“We were here to see Colonial Williamsburg, and my father pointed out the school, and he said, ‘Maybe you’ll go there one day.’ I looked at it and said, ‘Yeah, I think I will.’ Done. Decided. Check.”
Like many other government families, her parents were based in Virginia. She toured other in-state schools, but none could beat the “vibe on campus” she experienced here; in the end, William & Mary was the one she applied to — she was admitted early decision.
The culture shock of moving back to the U.S. from Central America was challenging at first, but she found a community in her freshman dorm, Barrett Hall, and a creative outlet in the campus coffee shop, the Meridian, where she worked. It hosted art projects throughout the year and was a gathering place for “artistic, alternative types,” Glock says. “It was the first time I really felt like I found my people.”
There, she met her future husband, Earl “Judge” Glock IV ’04, M.A. ’09, and some of the friends she stays in touch with to this day.
“I value the idea of having a home a little bit more intensely than other people — I think that’s why I’m ultra-attached to William & Mary,” she says. “It’s both an opportunity and a burden that I get to decide where home is, and I don’t take it for granted.”
As a student, she double majored in studio art and English. While this now seems like the perfect combination for a career in comic books, at the time, she wasn’t yet clear on how to make a career from her passion.
She describes her art classes as traditional, providing her with fundamentals like figure drawing — key for the long-form work she is doing now that requires consistent figures, page after page. Professor Brian Kreydatus was particularly influential. “He taught me how to draw,” she says.
After graduation, she wasn’t sure what to do next. But an article in the W&M Alumni Magazine’s spring/summer 2004 issue inspired her to stick with comics. “Not Your Average Comic Book Guy” profiled alumnus David Lasky ’90, who was creating independently published comics. He, too, had been a fine arts and English double major at W&M. Glock immediately went to a comic book store and found one of his books, “Urban Hipster,” and loved it.
“For a long time, David Lasky’s story was a beacon of hope for me,” she says. “He did it. I can do it too.”
She moved to Philadelphia, taking continuing education classes, working odd jobs and putting together a portfolio to submit to art schools. She got into the MFA program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and created a comic book for her thesis.
That comic, “The Deformitory,” received a grant for publication, kickstarting a slew of projects she describes as the “most fantastical, strange surreal comics.” She printed them herself and took them to indie comic book shows, all while working as a freelance illustrator, production assistant and an adjunct professor to pay the bills. Her work appeared in various anthologies as well as in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Buzzfeed, Narratively and Time Out New York.
But as she drew, she realized her work was getting more and more personal, edging closer to the true story of her exceptional childhood. She decided it was time to confront her past head-on in her art.
That project became “Passport,” which was published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in 2021. It’s drawn in just three colors — black, faded red and faded blue, reminiscent of her school uniforms, airmail envelopes and the colors of the American flag.
Before it could be released, the CIA reviewed the memoir and required Glock to remove certain details.
“I didn’t get to talk about certain things that I might have explored a bit more, things that were painful to scrub out because they are the facts of my life,” she says. “But it was important to do everything above board and to do justice to my parents and their legacy.”
Throughout the memoir, Sophia’s frustrations with herself, her family and her friends are balanced with moments of grace and hope. Creating the book was an exercise in forgiveness, she says. “You can’t create a character if you look at people in black-andwhite terms. They’re very flat. They’re not dynamic. You have to look at all parts of their humanity, which is the quickest way to compassion. I ended up feeling a lot of compassion for the people in the book, and for myself.
“The stories we tell ourselves about our past become rote, we become attached to them, and we put them away. We don’t challenge them, and it’s not that they aren’t true, but there’s not a chance to re-examine them and let go of the ones that aren’t serving us anymore. This was cathartic, putting them on the page and giving them away through words.”
Glock loves hearing from her readers that her story made a difference in their lives.
“It was so hard to put myself out there. It feels vaguely embarrassing to write about yourself, to feel like your story is worth telling. But when someone writes to you and says, ‘I’m living overseas with my parents and this book describes just what that’s like,’ it’s the best feeling in the world,” she says. For her next book, though, she’s taking a break from memoir and working on a long-form graphic novel firmly based in fiction.
Since leaving William & Mary, Glock has never stopped moving. Her husband’s work with Cicero and the Manhattan Institute has taken her and her two children around the country. They now reside in Austin, Texas.
“My past makes me a bit more aware of the decisions I’m making for my own kids. For me, moving was so normal I really didn’t question it until I was much older. It’s so baked into my mentality about how to go through life that I can look forward to it,” she says. “Sometimes a clean slate can be a beautiful thing.”