STITCHES by David Small
Kirkus Star


A Memoir
by & illustrated by
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Emotionally raw, artistically compelling and psychologically devastating graphic memoir of childhood trauma.

An award-winning illustrator of children’s books (That Book Woman, 2008, etc.), Small narrates this memoir from various perspectives of his boyhood in the 1950s. He considered his radiologist father one of the “soldiers of science, and their weapon was the X-ray…They were miraculous wonder rays that would cure anything.” Or so it seemed to a young boy who realized early on that his family was what now would be labeled “dysfunctional.” His mother was cold, neurotic and acquisitive, with little love for either her spouse or their children. His older brother had little use for or contact with his younger sibling. His father was barely a presence in the household. The author was chronically ill, with treatment prescribed by his father, including X-rays. When Small was ten, he developed a growth on his neck that his parents were too preoccupied to have diagnosed, though friends of the family urged them to. It wasn’t until after he turned 14 that he finally underwent surgery for what was initially considered a harmless cyst but turned out to be a cancerous tumor. A second surgery left him with only one vocal cord, all but voiceless as well as disfigured. Terse and unsentimental throughout, the narration becomes even sparer once the author loses his voice, with page after wordless page filled with stark imagery. Yet the intensity of the artistry reveals how he has been screaming inside, with nightmares that never fully abate when he is awake. Psychological therapy helps him come to terms with his condition, as does his precocious artistry. While the existence of this suggests somewhat of a happy ending, the reader will find forgiving and forgetting as hard as the author has.

Graphic narrative at its most cathartic.

Pub Date: Sept. 8th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-393-06857-3
Page count: 344pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2009


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