Monday, March 5, 2018

Lighter Than My Shadow

Have you ever started reading a long book late at night, knowing you should probably go to bed but are so compelled that you read the whole thing? That's what happened to me when I picked up Lighter Than My Shadow. This reissue of a 2013 book just kept me entranced with beautiful, haunting, and often horrific images. I could not stop reading as I saw the multiple cycles of struggle the author went through over the years in relation to eating.
The story unfolds over a long period of time, starting with Katie's early years as a picky eater. She starts hiding food in her room, pretending to have eaten it. By the time she gets to high school, she is anorexic, obsessively counting calories, starving herself at times, exercising compulsively, and pushing herself into academics. Ignoring her own health, she spirals into an unhealthy state that requires withdrawing from school and getting medical and psychological help. Over time, she gets older, starts rebelling against her parents, falls in with a shady alternative healer, and eventually goes to art school. All the while though she is haunted by the specter of her own thoughts and anorexia, which inhibit and trouble her life.
The ways that she depicts her various mental states, the gnawing of hunger in her belly, her disassociation from her body and herself, and the way that she saw herself in the mirror are all marvels of innovative comics storytelling. Her art chops are impressive, and they go very far in expressing the depths of her feelings and misery. And although the book ends on a positive, sweet note, Green does not pretend that the struggle is ever really over and provides no pat ending. She treats her condition with the seriousness and gravity it requires, and this work seems uniquely geared to shed light on a hidden, often shameful situation that affects many people's lives. The world is better for having this book in it.
This book's creator, Katie Green, is a British artist and illustrator. This book began as an art school project but grew into something much larger and took five years to complete.She speaks extensively about her work on this book in this interview.

All the reviews I have read of this book have been glowing. In a starred review from the School Library Journal, Mahnaz Dar wrote that the "straightforward text and vivid imagery combine for a powerful, achingly honest memoir." Dustin Cabeal stated that it was "incredibly impressive both with the writing and visual storytelling." James Smart described it as "gripping, thanks to its honesty and its disjunction between traumatic subject matter and sometimes childlike artwork."

Lighter Than My Shadow was published by Roar in the US. There is much more information and a preview available at the book's official website. Some of the imagery is disturbing, and there is some nudity and sexual abuse, so it is suggested for readers mature enough to deal with such features.

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