Scream­ing

Award-win­ning chil­dren’s author David Small takes read­ers on an un­for­get­table jour­ney into the dark.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LEISURE - TEE SHIAO EEK

ANGST al­ways makes for a best­seller, es­pe­cially in a mem­oir, and David Small’s Stitches seems to have cor­nered the mar­ket for it.

Small’s graphic mem­oir of his child­hood, how­ever, isn’t the usual com­ing-ofage yarn, char­ac­terised by teenage de­pres­sion over un­ful­filled sex­ual fan­tasies.

It is, in­stead, a voyeuris­tic glimpse into his very per­sonal phys­i­cal and emo­tional pain as he strug­gled to find his voice, lit­er­ally and metaphor­i­cally.

Grow­ing up in the in­dus­trial city of Detroit in the 1950s, Small’s life was shad­owed by si­lence. His fam­ily was not one to share feel­ings or niceties, pre­fer­ring to let their un­hap­pi­ness seethe and bub­ble be­low the sur­face.

The small­est sounds spoke vol­umes of un­spo­ken emo­tions: “Mama’s lit­tle cough” and her slam­ming of the kitchen cup­board doors, Dad’s thump­ing of his punch­ing bag and Ted’s beat­ing of his drum­set.

Amidst this thick cloud of si­lence, Small, an award-win­ning il­lus­tra­tor of chil­dren’s books (Calde­cott-Medal, etc) expressed him­self by fall­ing ill of­ten. His fa­ther, a doc­tor, self­pre­scribed treat­ments for his son’s con­di­tions. For his son’s di­ges­tive prob­lems, he gave en­e­mas, medicines and shots. For his si­nus prob­lems, Small was sub­jected to nu­mer­ous X-rays at ex­tremely high doses of 200-400 rads.

(“Rad” is the tra­di­tional unit of mea­sure­ment for ra­di­a­tion. 200 rads is equiv­a­lent to 20,000 times the dosage of a typ­i­cal chest X-ray to­day; how­ever, it should be ac­knowl­edged that there may have been a de­gree of cre­ative li­cense in Small’s rec­ol­lec­tion of his ra­di­a­tion ther­apy.)

The ef­fects of the ra­di­a­tion was to sur­face later in his teenage years, in a night­mar­ish twist that led to him de­vel­op­ing can­cer (al­though it was kept se­cret from him) and an op­er­a­tion that re­moved one of his vo­cal

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