Stitches: A Memoir
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Stitches: A Memoir

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  12,669 ratings  ·  1,958 reviews
A Publishers Weekly Top Ten Best Book of the Year
An Top Ten Best Book of 2009
A Washington Post Book World’s Ten Best Book of the Year
A California Literary Review Best Book of 2009
An L.A. Times Top 25 Non-Fiction Book of 2009
An NPR Best Book of the Year, Best Memoir

With this stunning graphic memoir, David Small takes readers on an unforgettable journey into the...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published September 14th 2010 by McClelland & Stewart (first published September 8th 2009)
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If it were up to me, all biographies and memoirs would be written in graphic novel form. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, The Complete Maus, The Complete Persepolis, Blankets ; these are all near-perfect expressions of personal and familial experience. The power of imagery saves the subject matter from being bogged down by the excessively wordy, self-justifying tendencies of some, and the oblique, pseudo-poetic drivel of others. The best graphic novel memoirs and biographies seem to combat these t...more
book #6 for Jugs & Capes!!

Holy motherfuck, this book is intense. It's a real fast read, despite its intimidating heft. And it's just terribly devastating—powerful and aching and sparse and horribly beautiful, and oh also did I mention that it's terribly devastating?

I mean, not devastating in an irredeemable way, like those maudlin mass-market bestsellers where everyone dies slowly & tragically while staring meaningfully into their loved ones' eyes and gently speaking words of unbearabl...more
Jackie "the Librarian"
Back in the 50's, people did NOT talk about issues. Everything was internalized - unhappiness, anger, resentment were all swallowed. When illustrator David Small was a boy, he felt all those repressed feelings, even though they weren't spoken. His mother's little cough, his father's absences, all spoke volumes.

He internalized his own feelings, of not feeling loved or wanted, but they manifested physically as asthma and sinus troubles, exacerbated by the smoke from the nearby factories, and his o...more
I always feel a little nervous about reading and reviewing memoirs. There’s only so much, after all, that you can suggest to the author. It’s hard to be all, "Yeah, I would have appreciated more excitement in [insert portion of life]. Could you have made something up? Just for the sake of your readers?" Because then, we get into books like Lying, and poor Monica gets all sorts of migraines trying to figure out when the author is full of it, and... yes. It’s risky. However! There was no need for...more
MJ Nicholls
Understated and elegiac inkery. Strictly from the misery memoir staple, grainy and grotty, but not gratuitous. Cinematic panels opening up wistful wounds and profound childhood emptiness. The graphic novel is almost alone among contemporary art/fiction in capturing that peculiar form of youthful Weltschmerz.
Such strange compressions of time: 24 years of the most significant moments in the author's life laid out in comparatively spare, sane, elegant, mature, b&w drawings (compared to the work of many other leading graphic artists) over 329 pages that surely took years to complete, read in an "enjoyable" hour, immersed in that sort of cinematic bookishness that comes from turning pages so much more quickly than those covered in text. A great passage of pages where the kid-aged author dives throug...more
Maggie Stiefvater
Jul 19, 2009 Maggie Stiefvater rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people new to graphic novels
Recommended to Maggie by: Ian from Booklist
Shelves: adult, recommended
I am not going to tell you anything about this book.

I'm sure you're thinking that's an odd way to begin a review, but that's how I went into this book, and it worked for me. I was doing an interview with Booklist last weekend and I asked the interviewer what he thought was the graphic novel of the year so far. Without even having to consider, he said, "STITCHES." My publicist picked an advanced review copy up for me at ALA and I am thrilled that she did. I didn't know anything about it except t...more
Wow! What a heartrending look at children's book writer/illustrator David Small's sad and miserable childhood!

We see him first as a small boy, lying on the floor, happily drawing pictures.
His dad is mostly absent, and his mother, well, let's face it...she's HORRIBLE! Verbally and physically abusive, she's a monster.
But as this graphic novel, done in muted shades of gray suggests, not everything is black and white.
After spending some time with David's grandmother, his mother's mother, we get so...more
Woo wee, this memoir had some bite to it, to be sure. Picking this one up, I was not sure if it would consitute as 'creepy' as everyone has said it is. It's worse. Stitches is creepy and affecting. The story of David Small's childhood kept me up at night, with me pondering over him being mentally scarred or not. The pictures are 'simplistic' yet arresting. Check this one out.
Heart breaking.

I read this last night and was left very pensive. Once wakened by my daughter around 1am, Small's story would not leave my brain. Upon reflection I think I will be haunted by this one for a long time.
This evocative graphic novel, replete with themes of loss, anger, pain and hope, is bound to resonate with readers in much the same way that
Craig Thompson’s Blankets does. Small’s memoir mirrors the helplessness children and adolescents often feel as pawns in world ruled by adults with their own dysfunctional baggage, and beautifully illustrates the truism that everyone eventually grows up and is rewarded with the chance to develop their own identity separate from the people who raised them. Als...more
Imogene's Antlers by David Small has always been one of my favorite childrens books so I was eager to read his graphic memoir Stitches, but not prepared for the intensity of it. With drawings and spare words, he relives his troubled childhood with his frighteningly unhappy mother and physician father. After X-Ray treatments from his father, he develops cancer at the age of 14 but no one tells him. He awakes from surgery scarred, mute, and confused about what happened and why. At 16 he leaves hom...more
This is a very strong graphic novel. No superheroes here, just a very emotional memoir about a child growing up in a deeply dysfunctional family but who manages to overcome the damages that had been inflicted upon him by his relatives. A very, very unhappy family depicted here. And David is not very forgiving either.

I do not recommend reading the plot summary printed on the dust jacket. It gives the entire story away.

If you like Stitches, you will probably like Blankets too.
Bob Redmond
The story: a boy suffers from the worst kind of neglect, in a truly screwed up family situation. It probably won't spoil the story to say that he loses his voice through an operation (hence the title). It's a memoir.

The background: the author would eventually become a renowned illustrator of children's books.

My notes: the book is goregously illustrated in black inks and watercolors. The prose is spare, and the story minimal. Amist the flood of memoirs published in recent years, this one has to s...more
Like his favorite character, Alice, David Small leads the reader through a kaleidoscopic wonderland in his memoir Stitches. But this is no technicolor animation - young David's journey is a painful hell punctuated by emotional and physical estrangement that has obviously had a formative effect on his art. The adults in his life loom over him like leering eyeless zombies as he discovers that nobody's supposed to call his grandmother "crazy," and that the supposedly harmless surgery he needs has t...more
Wow. Just wow. I expected this to be good, but good and completely depressing too. Yet, somehow, by the time I finished this book I wasn't depressed in the least. Some parts were sad, don't get me wrong, but overall it was heartbreaking yet completely uplifting. David Small is a man who survived sickness, abuse, social exile, a loveless mother, a guilt ridden father, and the thought that he was going insane.

Also, I don't think I could have enjoyed this book if it were a novel and not a graphic...more
Aug 23, 2014 Agne rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone, really!
Recommended to Agne by: Read and Meet Book Club

David Small's "Stitches" is a gloomy and harrowing memoir written as a graphic novel. The story brings us back to the author’s childhood and lets us “in a house where silence reigned and free speech was forbidden.” Although David wasn’t beaten or starved (not too often, anyways), the extreme lack of love and communication from his parents left deep scars, even deeper than a stitched up gash across his throat. And how did he get that gash? Oh, at the age of fourteen he had a surg...more
Several of his illustrated books were favorites to read to my kids when they were small. This illustrated memoir reveals a childhood so very different from theirs. Raised in a home without love, he is pulled back from the edge of madness by one caring adult. The book is beatifully done and very touching.
Dear Mom and Dad, Our family's never seemed as normal and happy as after I read this book. Love, Mandy
Beth F.
I’d never read a graphic novel until this month. Now this is the third I’ve completed and frankly, I’m hooked! Like a lot of non-fans of comics I’d been erroneously operating under the assumption that all graphic novels were about superheroes or contained subject matter that I would find boring.

This book is a perfect example of a graphic novel that breaks that mold. It is a memoir and based on the author’s true boyhood experience with going in for what he’d been led to believe was a routine ope...more
Mary Stein
I read the book “Stitches” by David Small. “Stitches” is in comic book form (Or graphic novel form for those of you who think that you’re too old to read comics. Which is BS by the by. Everyone loves comics) either way, “Stitches is a memoir that is told through pictures, as I mentioned earlier. Now you may be wondering, why would you name your memoir “Stitches” of all things? I mean, yeah, it’s a cool title and everything, but if I wanted a title to sum up my life it would be “Norm...more
Stitches is a graphic novel I'm going to have to revisit sometime soon. Having read it just days before my BIG move David Small didn't get nearly enough time for me to truly consider this book with any sort of metal capacity. This is the sort of story you have to let stew in your brain for a bit and I look forward to doing just that.

What I can say in the meantime is that this book was difficult to read for me. The genre of graphic novel memoirs is something we see a lot of, but more often than...more
About it being a graphic novel:

As my first graphic novel, I think the bar has been set high already. Although I've always been skeptical towards this genre, after reading it, I'm already fishing for other graphic novels. The comic strip format is reminiscent of film scenes, and being a fan of film had me appreciating the visual sequencing of events, settings, body language, facial expressions, light and shadow.. in addition to the book, as the author says, being influenced by film, made it all t...more

What would you do if you discovered a secret that would change everything? In Stitches, award winning author and illustrator David Small recreates his dark childhood where not even a glimpse of hope is to be found. Through a secret which aggravated his childhood to the brink of death, Small somehow withstood the pain and the suffering of a childhood without love; and comes out on top, because of a passion. A driven force. Art. I would exceedingly recommend this book to anyone that is looking fo...more
First I read the words, and I said, "Wow." Then I re-read the pictures, and...what was left to say?

As much as the story, the art is bleak and often disturbing, yet fascinating -- like David and his brother huddled over the forbidden images in their father's medical books, you can't look away. Perhaps because converting emotions into words is essentially a process of translation, while images (especially images like these) forge a much more direct connection between artist and audience. The emot...more
When I was a kid comic books were innocuous fun—Scruffy and Little Lulu and Richie Rich. David Small's Stitches: A Memoir is far from fun, but it is a captivating illustration of Small's childhood in an angry, silent, and non-demonstrative family living in Detroit, Michigan.

When David was 11 the wife of his father's colleague noticed a growth on his neck. Fast forward 3 1/2 years and David's cyst removal operation is scheduled. ("Do you know how much doctors cost!") David wakes up from the surge...more
I don't read graphic novels. I just don't. However, I came across this book and the premise was so intriguing -- and it got such good reviews -- that I had to take a look. I am SO glad I did. This book is STUNNING.

It is the true story of a man's lonely, confusing, bizarre childhood in Detroit. His father was a doctor and gave him hundreds of experimental x-ray treatments, presumably to help his son's sinus infections. They ended up causing cancer. His mother was a bitter, harsh woman incapable...more
Jabiz Raisdana
Dark and haunting and filled with sadness. I read this beautifully drawn graphic novel in one sitting, and was left with a lump of sadness and confusion I am not sure what to do with. There are somethings in there about the power of art and independence, but it takes the patient and hopeful reader to discover where they are.

You should spend the few hours you need with this book, as it will carve a space in your heart and stay there a while.
I liked this book. I agree that it did pull at the heartstrings and for a graphic novel it was nice and quick to go through however still left an impact. I liked how the book didn't make such a big deal about how David's stitches scarred his life dramatically and how he didn't just write about self-pity, and rather focused on the events of his life afterwards. I found it interesting that all these important things happened between him and his family after this point in his life. It was nice to r...more
Stitches is an autobiography in graphic novel form. It tells, unflinchingly, the story of a boy who wakes up with a lump in his throat that goes untreated even though his father works in the medical field and knows better than to let such things go unchecked. The graphic novel details the life of David Small, his oppressive family, his horrible mother and his absent father. It tells the criminal neglect that lets the cancer in Small’s throat develop until one of his vocal chords has to be remove...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

David Small is the recipient of the Caldecott Medal, a Christopher Medal, and the E. B. White Award for his picture books, which include Imogene's Antlers, The Gardener, and So, You Want to Be President? He lives in Mendon, Michigan.
More about David Small...
Imogene's Antlers George Washington's Cows Paper John Fenwick's Suit Hoover's Bride

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“.... When you have no voice, you don't exist” 13 likes
“The odd thing about recurring dreams is that, no matter how many times you dream the same thing, it always takes you by surprise.” 11 likes
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