With a name like “Stitches”, David Small’s memoire quickly caught my attention in the library. Was it gonna be one of those black and white tales of bleakness and gloom?
Why… yes, it was.
In 2009 Small, a comics artist and children’s illustrator, released an autobiographical graphic novel, which contrasted sharply with his previous picture book work. The central event that weaves a runs through the story is the “growth” that young David finds on his neck. This, however, is just the matter that keeps the story moving—the main pull of the book is the narrative’s exploration through Small’s interactions with his cold and distant parents and grandmother, people repressed inside their own emotional prisons and everyday frustrations. Learning “the language” of the household helped the protagonist navigate through his adolescence, but it didn’t keep him from the calamities brought on him through his parents’ negligence.
In the end, “Stitches” is a coming-of-age story about coping with wounds. Some are hidden under a bandage. Some leave ugly scars. Yet there are the deep ones which no amount of thread can close, so they keep opening up, and opening up, and releasing darkness.