Monday, March 15, 2010

Stitches: A Memoir

Small, David. 2009. STITCHES: A MEMOIR. New York: W.W. Norton. ISBN 9780393068573 [Suggested Grade Levels 9- 12]

Award-winning children’s illustrator, David Small, uses his artistry to depict his harrowing childhood in this graphic memoir. His radiologist father believed x-rays could cure many ailments, including David’s chronic sinus problems. When a lump develops in David’s neck, his mother seems unconcerned, worried more about the imposition and cost of a potential serious illness than her son. After years the lump can’t be ignored, and teenage David is hustled into an operating room, not knowing that he has throat cancer and unprepared for the tragic results of the surgery. David emerges voiceless and angry at the lifetime of abuse he has suffered at the hands of his parents and grandparents.

David’s rendering of his mother gives the reader an unsettling feeling. She grunts her criticism through snarled grimaces, and her hunched posture exudes her despicable nature. Yet she seems almost harmless compared to the maternal grandmother. The sympathy one may feel for Small is halted only by the thought that without this background, he may never have developed into such an expressive talent.

The graphic memoir is a relatively new genre. Consider how the format enhances or distracts from the presentation of a person’s story. Instruct teens to write a short piece relating an incident from their childhood. Afterwards, try to convey the same information using the graphic format. Which style is preferred? Why?

Memoirs of dysfunctional families:
Walls, Jeannette. THE GLASS CASTLE: A MEMOIR. ISBN 9780743247535

More note-worthy graphic memoirs:
Katin, Miriam. WE ARE ON OUR OWN. ISBN 9781896597201
Sandell, Laurie. THE IMPOSTER’S DAUGHTER: A TRUE MEMOIR. ISBN 9780136033053

By Rebecca S. McKee

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