Review of Stitches: A Memoir by David Small

Review of Stitches: A Memoir by David SmallStitches by David Small
Published by Random House LLC on 2011-10-01
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Comics & Graphic Novels, Literary, Nonfiction
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon

A Publishers Weekly Top Ten Best Book of the Year An Top Ten Best Book of 2009A Washington Post Book World’s Ten Best Book of the YearA California Literary Review Best Book of 2009An L.A. Times Top 25 Non-Fiction Book of 2009An NPR Best Book of the Year, Best MemoirWith this stunning graphic memoir, David Small takes readers on an unforgettable journey into the dark heart of his tumultuous childhood in 1950s Detroit, in a coming-of-age tale like no other.At the age of fourteen, David awoke from a supposedly harmless operation to discover his throat had been slashed and one of his vocal chords removed, leaving him a virtual mute. No one had told him that he had cancer and was expected to die. The resulting silence was in keeping with the atmosphere of secrecy and repressed frustration that pervaded the Small household and revealed itself in the slamming of cupboard doors, the thumping of a punching bag, the beating of a drum. Believing that they were doing their best, David’s parents did just the reverse. David’s mother held the family emotionally hostage with her furious withdrawals, even as she kept her emotions hidden — including from herself. His father, rarely present, was a radiologist, and although David grew up looking at X-rays and drawing on X-ray paper, it would be years before he discovered the shocking consequences of his father’s faith in science. A work of great bravery and humanity, Stitches is a gripping and ultimately redemptive story of a man’s struggle to understand the past and reclaim his voice.From the Hardcover edition.

Stitches: A Memoir by David Small is told in graphic novel/comic book format. This is the third graphic novel memoir I’ve read, the first two being The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman and Persepolis 1 by Marjane Satrapi. I really enjoy reading these, despite the often heavy subject matter. Stitches contains subject matter that is heavy as well. I feel that the sparseness of words and the literal graphic depiction lends well to these kinds of stories and really strike at my heart. It’s not as though the art is haphazardly thrown in either, to me, the graphics are painstakingly chosen.

Small, it seems, had a horrific childhood with a family made of crazy. His dad gave him radiation treatments for a runny nose. Let me say, his father isn’t someone with no medical knowledge, he’s a dentist after all. Anyways, the radiation results in cancer. His mother suffers from depression, as well as a deep secret. His brother seems distant, and don’t even get me started on the whack job grandmother who legit needs to be in psych ward with a straight jacket.

You would think all of those factors would hold Small down and perhaps he would not amount to much. Hah hah, but he’s written a book! So perhaps by virtue of the obvious we all can conclude that Small does rise above his circumstances. Well, I like that this book showed art as his coping methods. There’s pictures of him sketching when everyone around him seems to be going nutters, eventually the art does put Small in a good place.

Now, one can’t talk about a graphic novel without talking about the graphics. Well, then again, yes you certainly could talk about other stuff, but I think that the graphics are obviously in the top 2 of the most important things pertaining to a graphic novel, the other being the story. The art in Stitches: A Memoir by David Small was fluid, I know I use that word a bit too much, but really fluid is a cool word and I like cool words. What I mean is that the lines are nice and smooth and round, seeming to sort of blend into each other. It’s not jarring. I do not mean jarring art is bad, it just has it’s place and I don’t think it would have worked with this book.

One theme I picked up from Stitches: A Memoir by David Small was that of building relationships. Some of us are lucky enough to be born into families that have only a little bit of crazy so we can build up trust within our families. Others, not so much. Therefore, Small must turn to people outside his family for comfort, as you cannot rely upon people who treat you as a second class citizen. This isn’t quite something I can relate to, as my family does treat me rather well, however, I interact with them in a much more positive way now that I don’t live with them or see them on a daily basis. So while it is a bit hard for me to place myself in Small’s circumstances at first, I thought a bit harder on my life and could relate. I mean, some of us call our moms when the world falls down, others call their best friend. I just think there is this human need to connect with others and have meaningful relationships. I suppose you could just use your passion as an escape, i.e. art, but it’s just nice to have someone’s ear.

I felt Stitches: A Memoir was an excellent read on triumphing over adversity and all of the hard things people have to go through. I mean, let’s face it, being a kid isn’t always a picnic. None of us live in Cleever Leave It To Beaver families. Perhaps we don’t struggle as badly as Small, but reading his story brings to my mind the phrase Keep On Keeping On.

Other Reviews of Stitches A Memoir:

Red House Books
Abby (The) Librarian

The following two tabs change content below.
April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. This sounds really great! I've never read any graphic novels before. May be time to change that. :]

  2. Bibliophile by the Sea just reviewed this today, too!

    I have only recently gotten into GNs, but I would agree with you that the graphics are probably in the top 2 important things about graphic novels 😉 I am looking forward to reading this one, if I can get it from the library. But first, I am hoping to get Burma Chronicles from there to finish what I started in Borders the other day. It's a great one! Have you read anything by Guy Delisse? That was the first book I saw by him, but it was really humorous while also being a great travel memoir.

  3. I completely agree with you about the very human need to connect. And I can't believe I haven't read this yet! Everyone seems to absolutely love it.

    PS: I also agree that "fluid" is a cool word 😛