Sunday, April 20, 2014

Stitches: A Memoir

Author:  David Small
Illustrator:  David Small
Published:  2009
National Book Award Finalist
Stitches: A Memoir is a graphic novel depicting the life of the author, David Small. The story is extremely disturbing. Mr. Small's family is dysfunctional and is emotional and physically abusive to him. I wonder why Mr. Small wrote this book. I suppose he had to find a way to express what he suffered as a child. He didn't have a voice as a child. The first set of pictures shows David, a child, sinking headfirst into a piece of paper, the pictures that he uses to explain his childhood.
The drawings help capture David's experiences and his imagination.  The pictures that depict his imagination have blurred edges.  He imagines a medical specimen chasing after him in the halls of the hospital or that he has to enter a tiny door in a church that leads to a chaotic room.  The edges on thses pictures are thick, but soft. 

 His final dream is different.  The edges of the dream are missing, I suppose it is because he is not letting others control him, he now has control to determine his own fate. In this dream he is in a house, but he needs to leave the safety of the house.  Then he hears his mother sweeping a path to an asylum for him.  He makes the decision to not go there.

David Small was born sick, but his father was a doctor who felt he could cure his son by x-raying him.  His mother was angry and did not speak, she just slammed the doors on the cupboards.  His brother dealt with his frustrations by playing his drums.  David only had his imagination to fall into.  He had fallen in love with Alice from Alice in Wonderland and would put a towel on his head to represent her long blond hair.  The neighbors thought he was weird.

It turns out that the x-raying led to cancer in David, but his family kept that from him.  He awoke one day not being able to speak because he had surgery for the cancer in his throat.  David had part of his vocal cord removed.  He is angry with his family for not telling him that he had cancer and his voice is very weak.

The person who helps David find his voice is the psychologist, the White Rabbit.  I suppose this is another link to his love for Alice in Wonderland.  The White Rabbit helps him realize that his mother does not love him.  As I read the book, I remembered that Alice followed the rabbit into the hole.  I'm wondering if this rabbit showed David the hole, the way to escape his abusive mother and grandmother and the father who didn't understand him or know how to treat David.  David moves out of his home at the age of 16 and becomes an artist.

 Writing this book had to be therapeutic.  That is the only reason I could think of for writing this book.  It was strange, it was disturbing, but I couldn't put it down.  It was really good.  I need to go back and reread Alice in Wonderland becuase there are so many allusions to that story.  I'm sure I missed a lot of the symbolism because I do not remember much about it. This was the first graphic novel I had ever read and I was really entertained and I am looking forward to reading more.  I read this book a few months ago and then reread it this past week because I found it very difficult to write about.  After I read Alice in Wonderland, I will reread this book and I'm sure I'll get even more out of it.

This is a book for older children.  I've been handing all of my books over to my youngest son to read (6th grade) and he was affected by it.  He too enjoyed it and he was then led to read Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.  I was searching for other graphic novels and was surprised to see A Wrinkle in Time.  I'm looking forward to reading the graphic novel interpretation of that book.

Check this book out from your library.

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