Stitches, a memoir in graphic novel

David Small presents Stitches, a memoir at Librería Moebius Bookstore on Wednesday the 15th of February 2017, at 6pm. Free entrance.

stitches-portadaOpen Stitches and meet David, a 6-years-old kid from Detroit, born in a rather non loquacious family. Mother is a cold and distant house wife and Father spends his time hitting a punching ball in the house basement when back from work. At home the atmosphere is unwieldly, described in this black and white graphic novel’s first chapter thanks to silent sequences only punctuated by sounds: Mother coughs and slams doors, Father hits the punching ball, Brother plays the drum…

This general lack of communication brings little David to communicate his own way: “wordlessly… getting sick, that was [his] language”. His sinuses and digestive system problems are taken care of by his father, who is a radiologist, and prescribes many X-Rays sessions. A cure which will only makes things worse…  At age 14, after a surgery to extract a cancer out of his throat, David loses his voice.

stitchesmumStitches is a memoir. His author is David Small, a successful illustrator for children literature who has been traveling to San Miguel for the last 20 years. Stitches is his first graphic novel. Published in 2009 by W. W. Norton & Company, the book is Winner of the American Library Association’s Alex Award, a National Book Award Finalist and NYTimes Bestseller.

miradasThe praise for Stitches is tremendous: Roz Chast has put Stitches into her favorite books list and Stan Lee’s opinion on David Small’s book is that “it has elevated the art of the graphic novel and brought it to new creative heights”.

Robert Crumb resumes it: “David Small evokes the mad scientific world of the 1950s beautifully, a time when everyone believed that science could fix everything. Small is an innocent lamb, a sensitive boy, caught in a nightmare situation.” Indeed Stitches is the portrait of a time and place: USA in the 50’s is described as an unsensitive, cruel, crushing society. David’s adolescence is a painful discovery of his own position as a victim; his intents of rebellion, shut down by his inability to talk loud, lay frustrated into fantastic dreams: page 196 of the soft cover edition a miserable bat under the rain mistakes a raggedy umbrella for his mother: poignant!

David Small’s mastering of sequences is outstanding! Follow the glances of young David on his environment and feel, from case to case, the stifle fury of this young man who will hopefully find refuge in the office of a psychoanalyst pictured as a rabbit! Yes, Stitches is the story of a healing scar and the reader can’t stop thinking of the act of surrender engaged by the author. But this graphic novel is also a masterpiece in story-telling: open Stitches and hold you breath, feel the gloom; turn the pages: get angry, consider the human misery; turn more pages: hope and cry with young David; finish this book and trust mankind again because of its hability to share, like David Small does with such a great talent, even the deepest pain.


More about David Small:



A selection of comic books to better understand the Arab World

Since the 1990’s, many comic books have been published and are likely to be displayed in the non fiction section of bookstores and libraries.  There are biographies, travel logs, chronicles and documentaries, told in this very specific language of comic books.

Drawing in sequence with the alternation of texts in balloons (giving direct voice to many different characters) and in captions (offering space to the narrator), provide the story-telling with a greater impact. Many authors have now chosen this genre to vividly tell their own experiences or observations. During the past decade, titles dealing with the Arab World have been released: through them we can understand more of these countries, their culture and their geopolitical issues. In these very interesting works, generally told by a first-person narrator, the point of view is not objective or impartial. There are stories told from the inside by artists who have experienced those times and places.


Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi, might be the best-known title on this list, since it has been adapted to movie-screen. Satrapi draws and recounts her childhood in Teheran in the 70’s, when the Islamic Revolution overthrown the Shah. The author’s family, opposed to the Revolution, had to suffer the repression of the regime. Told from the experiences of a child and drawn with a naïve black and white line,  this book is tender, humorous and very illuminating.
Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi, Pantheon, 2004


In The Photographer, Lefèvre chronicles his travels through the mountains of Afghanistan during the war against communist Russia, when he was commissioned by NGO Doctors without Borders to follow a medical team in mission to settle a hospital in an isolated region. This book is a great homage to the outstanding commitment of Doctors without borders, and a sensible look at civilians in war.
The Photographer: Into War-torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders, Lefèvre, First Second, 2009


Joe Sacco spent 3 months in occupied Gaza and Ramallah in the 90’s. He gives voice to the Palestinians, trapped in the muddy streets of refugee camps, recounting torture, massacres and arbitrary imprisonments. The author of Palestine never forgets to put the testimonies he reports under the light of local and international geopolitics. A must-read to understand the Israel Palestine conflict!
palestine cover
Palestine, Joe Sacco, Fantagraphics, 2001


The father of author Riad Sattouf (French mother and Syrian father) seems to incarnate the role of the Arab of the future: highly educated in French universities, he decides to take his wife and 5-years-old child to Kadhafi’s Libya in the 80’s to see the leader’s pan-Arabic project of the leader come true. The author’s sarcastic tone reveals the struggles of a country on its way to development, and their citizens’ dream to take over. With the recent events in Libya in mind and the fall of “the Guide” at the hands of the West, this memoir of an extraordinary childhood leaves the reader with a bitter taste: Occident and the Arab world are not likely to understand each other. Let’s hope Sattouf’s book can help build a bridge between differences.
The Arab of the Future, Riad Sattouf, Metropolitan Books, 2015