It’s weird, sometimes, how much other people’s stories can mean to you. It’s part of the reason I love reading (good) memoirs – coming across that one story, that one line in their tale, that hits you right in the heart, or the head, or rings some distant memory bell of your own. The thing that makes you see that people – with all their infinite indiviualities – still have so many little points of connection.
And that’s how I felt reading The Story of My Tits, Jennifer Hayden’s autobiographical graphic novel. She freely admits that she may have some of the dialogue wrong here and there, but what she’s got down pat are the feelings. That “Do I understand anyone in my family” feeling. The “Seriously, how am I a grown-up now feeling?” The “F@%^ Cancer: No, seriously: F@*& that.”
The whole thing hit a little too close to home, sometimes. Which makes for an uber -relatable, super-successful memoir, in my opinion. (“Yeah, you care about a lot of people and they’re depending on you. You’re halfway through your life and you want to know where it went. Welcome to middle age! Now would be an excellent time for you to stop being a chicken-shit.” – Shut up, little bird who somehow knows too much about my life.)
I’m going to be honest here – this book was really hard for me, after a certain point. I was OK through the first 2/3rds of it, but then, when she gets breast cancer, and goes through her treatment, and comes out of it with less boobs, but more meditative and graceful and stuff, well, I’m not going to lie: I was kind of angry, not that she made it, but for all the people who don’t. I just lost my sister-in-law to breast cancer, and it’s such a horror show: From start to finish, every single appointment and treatment and disappointment and the gaping chasm of her loss – it’s too much, it’s too fresh, it’s everything. I probably should’ve passed on reading this, just for those reasons – because I’m sitting here with a niece and nephew who weren’t as lucky as the young children in the book, and it stings a little bit too much for me to just overlook. But what’s good about the way the author tells her story, is that she keeps going: She may be more meditative and connected to a ‘goddess’ that helped her through the whole thing (which is so not my scene, but – hey: whatever helps you, is my theory), but she also knows bull when she hears it, and she calls out people who make her feel like the cancer was her fault and she recognizes that her family has been changed by this experience as much as she has, and she knows that even though the rest of the world feels pointless and ridiculous to her after Beating Cancer, she somehow still has to pay bills and go to the dentist and shit and that’s absurd in the most honest definition of the word.
It’s chock full of powerful panels – some heartbreaking, some hilarious (Example of the first: “The thing is she never even smoked” a male character’s text bubble reads. Over the top of the next square “Yet she belonged to death.” Example of the second: text reads, “By October, I wanted to kill him over a box of spaghetti.” Illustration of a woman slamming a door behind her and cursing as she leaves their apartment.) Equally entertaining and enlightening, I really enjoyed it, even when it stung like hell.
My copy was provided by NetGalley, but you can grab one come October.