In David Small’s memoir, Stitches he brings to light the years of emotional and psychological trauma that his parents had inflicted upon him from birth. Small’s parental figures had always considered him to be an untouchable figure, someone who was not worthy of their time and attention despite their inherent responsibility to be a source of protection. Although David was subjected to years of abuse, he was able to find a glimmer of safety and inclusion by confiding in his grandfather. Small demonstrated this by utilizing round and soft facial features to denote the joyful and pleasant experiences he shared with his grandfather. Since his grandfather symbolized the presence of a guardian angel, he drew his parents with harsh geometrical lines to show the juxtaposition of his grandfather’s amicable attitude and his parents stern and condescending nature. Similarly, In Tillie Walden’s memoir Spinning she utilizes the effect of soft lines and curves to denote memories of vulnerability and compassion that she experiences when she is in the presence of her cello teacher Victoria. She utilizes these soft edges to create a paradox with the crisp and calculated lines and movements that she had to execute throughout her figure skating performance. Additionally she utilizes crisp lines in her rendition of her mother’s character to demonstrate her cold and callous behavior.
Small utilizes the panels in his memoir to display specific instances in time when he had felt his grandfather was able to provide a sanctuary from all of the outside problems he was facing with his parents lack of care taking. With this focus on moments of bliss spent with his grandfather, it was inherently clear that David could express his authentic self without fear of facing retribution unlike what would occur if he were to try and spend time with his parents. Tillie Walden constructs her sequence of panels by focusing on a specific moment in time, which in this case was the moment that she came out to her instructor, in order to flush out the feelings of anxiety and nervousness she experienced in that time period of her life. In order to slow down the pace of the panel sequence and build tension to her revelation of her sexuality to Victoria, Tillie utilized the gutters of the panels which helped to create a build up of pressure emotions and then a release of relief. Small and Walden both utilize the panels of their graphic novels to show that “ the words and the images each move the narrative forward” (Chute 21). If Tillie Walden did not include the facial expressions of her coming out to Victoria, than the reader would not be able to see the growth Tillie exhibits as she comes to terms with her sexuality and confides in Victoria enough to allower her to hug her. Additionally David Small would not have been able to show the distinctions in his grandfather’s attitude compared to that other prominent adult figures such as his mother and father.
Stitches and Spinning are novels that focus on the negligence and mistreatment of children as they grow up in households that are incapable of demonstrating attachment or compassion. However, Walden and Small are able to find a source of warmth and protection in the arms of Victoria and Papa John.
Hillary Chute, “Comics for Grown-Ups” from Why Comics?: From Underground to Everywhere