Saturday, June 5, 2010

Stitches by David Small


David Small tells the story of his unhappy childhood in this graphic memoir. About 50 years ago, when Mr. Small was 14, he underwent surgery that rendered him mute for all intents and purposes and also resulted in his thyroid gland being removed. He believed that a cyst was being removed, but it turned out that the "cyst" was a tumor that had begun to grow as the result of the x-ray treatments performed on David when David was just an infant by his own father (who was a radiologist). At the time that David was an infant, radiological treatments were used to cure sinus and breathing issues, which David had as a child.  As a result of the insane amount of radiology used, David developed cancer. For nearly a decade after his surgery, he couldn't physically speak above the level of a hoarse whisper, no matter how hard he trained his remaining vocal cords.

The fact that David's father gave him cancer is one of the devastating sad parts of the story; but there is a second theme that is just as devastating: the communication, or lack of it, that is apparent in David's family  The fact that David was exposed to a high risk of cancer by his father isn't really discussed by David, his father OR his mother aside from a very, very brief conversation a few months after the surgery. In fact, it's almost as if David learned that he had cancer by accident and would have continued to believe that a cyst was removed if he hadn't accidentally stumbled upon it. Other communication was non-verbal - his mother only communicated her displeasure by a little cough that she had. She wasn't very adept at showing her love for her son, if she even loved him at all. It's also about having a voice - or finding an alternative method to having your voice heard when your original voice has been literally ripped from you without your knowledge or consent.

The book is really raw. My heart wrenched, particularly at the parts where David is flashing back to getting the high doses of radiation when he learns that he, in fact, was exposed to cancer by his father.  Mr. Small has a way of illustrating the raw, strong emotions without words being necessary to convey what he intends.  Needless to say, if you haven't figured it out yet, I loved how Mr. Small drew this book. While the story itself moves quickly because of the careful format, I urge you to slow down or go back after the first read through so that you can study the illustrations and really appreciate them.

Definitely one to add to your collection.

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