Graphic narrative at its most cathartic.

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. 8, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-393-06857-3

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2009


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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