Saturday, April 12, 2014

Stitches: A Memoir by David Small

Published in 2009 by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

David Small's graphic novel Stitches: A Memoir is one of the most depressing books I have ever read. Not one character in the entire book has any redeeming qualities. I'm sorry that David Small had such a horrible childhood growing up in Detroit, a city that, to me, also symbolizes a life of decay and hopelessness. My father was born and raised in Detroit, and it sickens me to see what has happened to that once thriving city. I lived there for a VERY short time when I was a young child and am thankful my parents decided to leave when the crime rate began to escalate and the schools and neighborhoods really began to deteriorate. We moved when we began to hear gunshots in our neighborhood on a regular basis.

The mother, the father, the grandparents, the doctors, the nurse, and even the psychiatrist that was characterized as the rabbit with his ticking time piece from Alice in Wonderland were all characters that I did not relate to in the least. I did not connect with them and wouldn't want to.

I also didn't appreciate the image of the crucifix hanging on the wall at his grandmother's house and the way Christ is portrayed speaking to him from the cross, "He was a durn little fool!" If this family had had even a mustard seed of faith in their lives, things might have been totally different. I don't understand why Small included this scene in his book at all. Christ and the crucifix had absolutely nothing to do with his misery. What was that about?

Small's memoir is sad, depressing, and left me feeling a sense of hopelessness, and I would never want to make my students feel this way. I am thankful there is hope in the world, but I certainly didn't find it in this book. I believe books should speak to the heart; they should touch the heart; they should inspire; they should teach. Life is hard enough. This book didn't do any of these things. I'm sorry to say that this book makes me dislike graphic novels even more than I did before. On the back of Small's book, Jules Feiffer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist has this to say:
David Small presents us with a profound and moving gift of graphic literature that has the look of a movie and reads like a poem. . . . We know that we are in the hands of a master."
A profound and moving gift of graphic literature? A master of what? I'm sorry. I just didn't find this book at all moving. I don't know if this graphic novel accurately portrays the author's childhood, but it made me feel sorry for him and his family. I hope one day he finds peace and joy in his life or has found it, and I hope he doesn't follow in his grandmother's footsteps by ending up in an insane asylum.

David Small, I recommend that you read Christ's actual words from the Bible, not words that you put it his mouth yourself. There you will find hope. Look them up. Christ's words are written in red, and I promise you, he won't call you "a durn fool."

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