I picked up this book purely for the title: Epileptic. As someone with epilepsy, diagnosed in my teens, I thought it would be interesting to read some...moreI picked up this book purely for the title: Epileptic. As someone with epilepsy, diagnosed in my teens, I thought it would be interesting to read someone's story about their experiences with it, as literature featuring epilepsy is hard to find. I was surprised to find out that the author did not have epilepsy, but it was in fact his brother.
My mixed feelings about this book are directly related to my own feelings as someone with epilepsy. The author's brother is depicted as the eye of the storm that is the family. Everything they do is related to curing his disorder, and they really do try every quack idea I've ever heard of. Many times, Jean-Christophe is drawn as a monster that attacks the author in some way (either literally or metaphorically.) What the author truly lacks is compassion for his brother, especially as an adult. The feelings he has as a child are both realistic and understandable, but you can feel his rage and bitterness toward his brother as both of them grow older. Even as an adult he seems unable to produce any empathy for his brother, rejecting him when he attempts to get close (Jean-Christophe coming into the author's room to watch him work) but then expressing anger, disappointment and confusion when his brother then turns to other avenues to forge connections, such as political ideologies and religion.
Near the end of the book, when the author is feeling particularly low, he claims that "I'm not sick but I'm almost as bad off as you are." (319) Even as an adult, the author does not have the self-awareness to either recognize the ridiculousness of that statement, or at least adding a caveat to explain that yes, he feels terrible, but he realizes that no, he is not as bad off as his brother. Because feeling bad about how your sibling's epilepsy affects you is not as bad as actually living with the epilepsy, complete with the knowledge that yes, you know that your family doesn't like you very much for it.
I was able to empathize not with the author, but with his brother. During my teens and early twenties, I saw a lot of myself in that character; I was withdrawn, at times given to explosive rage; depressed; desperately seeking connections; and convinced that my family saw me as a burden (because they did.) It's clear that the author sees his brother's epilepsy as something he (the author) needs to somehow overcome, as if it's an obstacle course. As if his brother's disorder is holding the author back, and that breeds a lot of resentment. How does it feel to know that one is a burden because of something that one cannot control? We, the audience, never know that. The author never attempts to see things from his brother's point of view, because he is too wrapped up in convincing himself that his brother has ruined his life. I understand the stress that caregivers and family members of those with chronic disorders feel, but those with at least a smidgen of self-awareness know that going on an extended pity-party only makes things worse.
Epileptic is an honest, realistic portrayal of one man's experiences growing up with an epileptic brother in Europe during the mid-sixties. Epileptic is also an honest, realistic portral of a boy who has grown into a selfish, tunnel-visioned, resentful man with an adult epileptic brother that he shows no compassion for. Navel gazing at it's very finest.(less)
Wandering Son: Volume One is a graphic novel written and drawn by Shimura Takako, and published by Fantagraphic Books. The book is about two fifth gra...moreWandering Son: Volume One is a graphic novel written and drawn by Shimura Takako, and published by Fantagraphic Books. The book is about two fifth graders, both who are exploring their respective gender identities. The Wandering Son series spans over 11 volumes (and counting) though only the first two volumes have been translated into English, with the third volume to be released soon (I couldn't find an exact release date, though you can pre-order it on Amazon.)
First, this book is a manga. It was originally written in Japanese and then translated into English. So it reads right to left, and there are several Japanese honorifics used throughout the story. It was a little confusing at first, but it wasn't too hard to figure it out as I read, and there's a handy guide in the back to help you out.
So the story revolves around Nitori Shuichi and Takatsuki Yoshino. Since in Japan, the surname is pronounced before the first name, in the story the characters are referenced as Shuichi and Yoshino by family, or Nitori-kun and Takatsuki-san while in school.
This is a story about transgender youth. Shuichi is a transgirl who is still very secretive and confused about her gender identity. Within the first chapter, Shuichi dreams that she has long hair and is wearing a dress, laughing with her girlfriends. But she is exposed, her wig torn off, and she wakes up in terror. It's heartbreaking, not only because of the longing that she has, but because she's only in fifth grade, and she's having to go through this basically alone, with not even the assistance of adulthood to help her through.
Shuichi quickly meets Yoshino in her class. Yoshino is a transboy, and a little more forceful about it than Shuichi, though he is still living as a girl, just as Shuichi is still living as a boy. Near the beginning of the book, Yoshino gives Shuichi a dress for Maho (Shuichi's older sister) which sparks Shuichi's dream about passing as a girl. Yoshino later reveals that he regularly dresses in boy's clothes and takes the subway pretty far from his house, just so he can walk around and have people acknowledge him as a boy, an acknowledgment that he does not receive at home or at school.
The art is pretty minimal, with most of the emphasis on the people rather than backgrounds. It can sometimes be difficult to tell the characters apart, especially when there is no dialogue. But the story flows very nicely, often using black panels with only text to convey a dramatic moment. I feel that Shuichi is developed a little bit more than Yoshino, though this could only be because this is the first volume. There are many different things that are explored throughout this story, such as Yoshino going through puberty as a female-bodied person (hint: it's about periods) and a supporting character's spiritual journey as she explores Christianity.
Some of the most poignant parts in the story are demonstrations of the fear that Yoshino and Shuichi have of being "discovered." Since they are able to share their secret with each other, there is a level of trust and openness that they have that you can tell is lacking when they interact individually with other people. But it's when the two characters are shown alone, daydreaming or thinking, that their vulnerability and fear is put right there. A panel of Shuichi dreaming of a version of herself with long hair wearing a dress, or Yoshino gazing longingly at a men's style jacket really encapsulates the pain and confusion that these characters are holding onto.
I don't want to give too many plot points away. Suffice it to say, this book seems a sensitive but surprisingly realistic take on transgender youth. Being a huge comic and graphic novel fan, I've had problems finding stories about anyone on the queer spectrum. And no, Nightcrawler being gay does not make up for the dozens of other ways that The X-Men franchise fails to not be shitty. So I was pleasantly surprised to find this book. I'm going to start reading Volume Two, and waiting for baited breath for the rest of the volumes to be translated and released.(less)