Continuing my trend of reading graphic memoirs that have been loaned to me by friends, I just finished David Small's Stitches: A Memoir (2009), which was a finalist for the 2009 National Book Award.
This book is heartbreaking, but the whole time I was reading it I kept looking back at the author's picture, showing a happy looking man in his mid-sixties, and reminding myself that he was nominated for a National Book Award, so obviously things turned out relatively okay.
Small was sickly as a child, and had lots of problems with his sinuses. His dad, a radiologist, gave him radiation treatments, which were thought to be helpful at the time. Several years later, the family noticed a growth on the side of Small's neck. They thought it was just a cyst and waited a few more years, when he was fourteen, to have it removed. During that surgery, the doctors realized that the growth was cancerous and ended up removing one of Small's vocal chords, leaving him voiceless and scarred when he woke up. Small's family was a family of silences, outbursts, and grudges and no one told him that he had had cancer. And the more you learn about the family, Small's cancer is just a small piece in the larger scheme of illness, betrayal, and cruelty.
The drawings are amazing -- especially the postures, the faces, and the washed out backgrounds. The perfect illustration for this book of memories, pain, and ultimately, escape.