Stitches by David Small
Although I call this a ‘graphic novel’ format it’s really a ‘graphic memoir.’ David Small begins his story when he is six years old and his father, a doctor, is giving multiple x-rays because he has sinus problems. (This appears to be the 1950s and this was considered ‘medical treatment.’ Of course, as we know now, this consistent exposure to x-ray was a huge mistake.) David develops a growth in his neck. Early on, it is thought to be a sebaceous cyst (harmless). But David’s parents, silently raging and negligent people, ignore treatment for years. By the time he is scheduled for surgery, David’s cancer (the real diagnosis) results in the loss of his thyroid, a vocal cord, and his voice. He gains a gruesome scar across his neck. There’ irony in his voicelessness in this house where no one speaks about how they feel.
The drawings are what make this book (a National Book Award Finalist) so moving. Hundreds of pages capture David’s imaginings. (One of my favorites: he slips into the ground, like his favorite character Alice from Wonderland, and emerges inside himself.) They also show the unique point of view/perspective of a frightened child who is not allowed to talk about anything, even his cancer.
Everyone will love this book; everyone will be moved by the drawings and by David’s lonely story. Spend an hour or two with Stitches.