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Dancing at the Pity Party: A Dead Mom Graphic Memoir

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Part poignant cancer memoir and part humorous reflection on a motherless life, this debut graphic novel is extraordinarily comforting and engaging.

From before her mother's first oncology appointment through the stages of her cancer to the funeral, sitting shiva, and afterward, when she must try to make sense of her life as a motherless daughter, Tyler Feder tells her story in this graphic novel that is full of piercing--but also often funny--details. She shares the important post-death firsts, such as celebrating holidays without her mom, the utter despair of cleaning out her mom's closet, ending old traditions and starting new ones, and the sting of having the "I've got to tell Mom about this" instinct and not being able to act on it. This memoir, bracingly candid and sweetly humorous, is for anyone struggling with loss who just wants someone to get it.

202 pages, Hardcover

First published April 14, 2020

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Tyler Feder

7 books224 followers

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5 stars
5,121 (61%)
4 stars
2,584 (30%)
3 stars
584 (6%)
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1 star
20 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,826 reviews
2 reviews3 followers
May 5, 2020
My late wife (and Tyler's mother), Rhonda, was a bright, beautiful, sensitive, loving and very kind woman, unlike anyone I had ever known. She was a wonderful wife of 21 years and an adoring mother. She epitomized the meaning of the word "mother" and was totally devoted to her children. Rhonda "walked softly but carried a big stick". She was respected and admired by all who knew her and her loss was and continues to be seismic. In reading my daughter Tyler's memoir, "Dancing at the Pity Party", I gained an even greater insight into the special relationship between them. Through my daughter's ever-lasting love for her mother, and her immense talent, I am so glad the memory of this amazing woman can be honored in this special way. Thank you, Tyler. I love you.
Profile Image for Gabby.
1,170 reviews25.4k followers
April 28, 2020
This was really freaking beautiful. I cried a lot over this book. Losing my mom is something my brain can't even fathom and it's one of my biggest fears, and my heart completely broke for this author's story of losing her mom to cancer during her freshman year of college. Cancer is so horrible and awful and unforgiving and I just feel so much for families who have to go through things like this. ):

But the art in this book is absolutely gorgeous and bright and colorful, and the discussion about mental health and grief and healing is so so so important.

Thanks to Penguin Teen for the ARC!
Profile Image for Katie Colson.
603 reviews5,224 followers
August 25, 2022
May 2022:
I read it a few months ago physically and there was so many points were the analogies would go on and on and on. Like the yoga poses for grief. Or constant lists. I don't care for repetition like that. It felt like filler.
But this time I picked it up on audio and it made my cry several times. This is a truly impactful story that is clearly written from understanding. I enjoyed it so much more the second time around. It is deep and hurtful but also so good for someone going through something similar to hear.

March 2022:
The subject matter in this book made me CRY! Ugh! It’s so relatable and intense. I didn’t feel as strong for her and I was to feel about my self. It’s a fantastic book to relate to grief and lose. It just didn’t meet the 5 star feels for me
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.2k followers
August 11, 2020
While I am not Jewish, I have had a lot of experience with Jewish culture through friends and one long term relationship where I was accepted as an "honorary Jew" and of course family member. And not to generalize too much or stereotype but it was easy for me to see the differences between my dour, serious Dutch Calvinist upbringing where we couldn't even dance at weddings, and I recalled no laughter at funeral parlors or in dinners after funerals, whereas at Jewish ceremonies, whether weddings or funerals, there seemed to be so much joy. My first experience with "sitting shiva" (the required mourning time) was one where laughter quickly bled into tears, and vice versa. and more food than I have ever experienced seeing (or eating). I'm just saying here that that was my experience.

This book about Chicagoan Jewish Tyler Feder and the loss of her mother (from cancer, at 47) has a title that might be off-putting for some, but I understand it. No one was loved more in her life than her Mom, but sort of blunt and possibly slightly "inappropriate" humor (I guess being inappropriate is what makes humor humor, often times) that is consistent with her mom and family dominates the book. It's Feder's basic grief strategy, actually, as you can see that she still, ten years later, cries but also laughs a lot about her Mom, whom I expect she will never stop grieving (I can say from personal experience as an older, more experienced griever). The book is really useful as a kind of "self-help" book for those who have lost loved ones, who will get to relive their grief (a process than can of course be a rich and usually useful experience) and think deeply about their dead friends and relatives and also a sweet memoir of her mother, a kind of model for us. I really liked it.
Profile Image for may ➹.
463 reviews1,850 followers
December 23, 2021
reading books about moms with cancer to feel alive (sad) again #win


Even though my mom is in remission, there’s always the fear that her cancer could come back. So reading this brought all those worries back to life, along with the urgency to make the most of my time with my mom in case something ever happens. This is such a personal, heartfelt, sad (but also humorous at times) memoir, and it really touched me.

:: content warnings :: death of parent from cancer, depictions of grief
Profile Image for Meagan.
1,317 reviews46 followers
July 10, 2020
It feels weird to give this five stars. Like I’m saying “woohoo! Your heartfelt memoir about the unimaginable pain of losing your mom to cancer was so good!” That’s not quite what I mean here. The first reason I’m giving it five stars is that it’s exactly what I needed. It’s been a little bit since I really stopped and let myself feel the grief, and the truth of the matter is that you can’t ignore it. Or I can’t. If you don’t acknowledge it from time to time it sneaks up on you and beats you up in an alley, leaving you bleeding in a pile of garbage. I suspect I was about to get grief-jumped, so a good ugly cry has made me feel strangely better.

Second reason is that this hit exactly the right note for me. Her mom is not my mom, and our experiences were broadly similar but not the same. But there’s an idea here that felt so true I can’t stand it. There really is a weird automatic kinship with other people who have lost their moms. Especially to cancer. Especially too young. It’s like flashing an “I get it” membership card with the result that you can just relax. No worrying about how you’re going to bring up that your mom is dead when moms come up in casual conversation. No need to explain why Mother’s Day fucking sucks. No need to wonder if people think you’re wallowing when you’re still very sad years after you lost her. We’re not the same, but we both know what this terrible thing is like. This book’s Dead Mom Club is something I desperately want. A cozy house filled with endless tissues, stupid comedies and mindless action movies, no stories ever with surprise cancer plots or dead moms. People who won’t feel awkward when you tell happy stories but cry through them. A Mother’s Day-free zone with a soundproof room for screaming and a punching bag labeled “cancer.” I want this club.

Thanks to this book for letting me ugly cry about my mom for a while, for reminding me that she was awesome and I loved her and she loved me, and for giving me proof that there are other people out there who are living this. For letting me feel really seen.
Profile Image for Olivia | Liv's Library.
236 reviews983 followers
April 13, 2020
Okay but I wasn’t expecting to ACTUALLY CRY?! I loved this.

You don’t need to have an experience with a family member being ill in order to relate to this story. The process of grief was described so well in this book and at times had me laughing out loud! It was such a wonderful variety of sadness, heart felt moments & things that made you laugh until you actually cry. I highly recommend picking this one up!

Thank you to Penguin Teen for so kindly gifting me a copy!
Profile Image for Maia.
Author 7 books1,939 followers
February 2, 2021
This is the best book I have ever read about death and grief. When she was 19 years old, the author's mother died of cancer. Now, at 30, the author writes the book she wishes she could have read about loving someone, watching them fall sicker and sicker, die, and then what comes next. The immediate things: a funeral, sitting shiva, going back to her sophomore year of college. But also the much later things- the grief and memories that still resurface at surprising moments even a decade later. Turning the age her mother was when the author was born- contemplating living to ages her mother never reached. I didn't cry once in 2020 as far as I can remember- if ever there was a year for tears, it was 2020, but crying has never been a way I regularly express emotions. But I cried through reading the last third of this book, despite the fact that I am lucky enough to have both my parents still living. This seems a poignant time and horribly relevant for a book of death and grief to be published. But I am so so glad that this book was released and I hope everyone who reads it (now, or in 10 years, or whenever they can stomach a book about grief) finds comfort here and can laugh and cry about it as much as I did.
Profile Image for elise.
437 reviews
August 19, 2020
Completed my 2020 reading challenge with this book!
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,379 reviews11.7k followers
February 3, 2022
I don't know how to rate this. This is a beautifully drawn graphic memoir that is essentially a personal grief therapy session, heartfelt and sad. I hope this was a healing exercise for the author, even though I can't say this is something that worked for me fully as a memoir. However, it's clear this book resonated with many readers.

Alternatively, I possibly have no heart?
Profile Image for Spencer Gibbons.
2 reviews1 follower
April 15, 2020
What a funny, heartfelt, and poignant graphic memoir! This book will bring you comfort and help you feel understood if you've suffered with grief, and will provide essential insight if you haven't. My favorite thing about this book is that it made me laugh out loud and cry out loud. In my experience, it is very rare that a book can delve into serious, painful topics while also incorporating the levity that I believe instinctively goes along with suffering as a method of coping.

Well actually, my favorite thing about this book is that my sister wrote it! But all that other stuff is still true. I couldn't ask for a better, more thoughtful portrayal of this story that I actually lived through. So proud of you Tylie!!
Profile Image for Radhika Roy.
85 reviews218 followers
June 5, 2021
What a refreshingly poignant graphic novel, with beautiful illustrations and even more beautiful writing.

“Dancing at the Pity Party” is Tyler Feder’s tribute to her mother who was struck by a late-stage cancer when Tyler was only 19. What follows is Feder chronicling her emotions as her mother grows sicker, passes away and then her experience in a motherless world. Throughout this cancer memoir, Feder attempts to inform her readers not only about how wonderful a human being her mother was, but also provides a glimpse into how one can navigate through the loss of a loved one.

The writing is insightful, heart-warming and excessively funny. It’s the kind of humour I subscribe to and therefore, it did manage to tug at my heartstrings. Best of all, it’s real. Grief isn’t linear. It’s not constant tears or constant dark humour as a defence mechanism or a constant show of strength; it’s always a mixture of the three and it’s always unexpected. Feder keeps her writing as raw as possible and I’m grateful for that.

I would definitely recommend this to people who not only feel alone in their sadness, but also to people who want to learn how to be an ally to those who are grieving over the loss of someone they cherish.
Profile Image for Basic B's Guide.
932 reviews285 followers
June 8, 2021
I feel seen. 💜

For anyone that has lost a parent or wants to to understand the complicated and messy grief journey that so many of us face.

I made it through without balling my eyes out but came close when she talked about how her mother changed when the cancer spread to her brain. I’ll never forget watching my mom struggle to remember my name and the frustration she had during speech therapy after her brain surgery. It absolutely broke my heart into a million pieces.

So much of the authors journey rang true for me. I couldn’t help but finish this is one sitting and will definitely pick up again and again. I can’t wait to share it with my sisters. 💜
Profile Image for CallMeAfterCoffee.
126 reviews236 followers
March 26, 2020
Oddly enough I finished this on my brother's birthday (who passed away in '97), so grief and nostalgia have really been in my mind the last few days. I found this memoir very endearing and easy to read. The talk of grief was very relateable, especially the part with "dead mom" written on the side of the elephant in the room. Even 20+ years later it's something that crosses my mind when I meet someone new... How long until I have to break the "dead brother ice" and break this poor person's heart, and then feel sad that I made them sad because they weren't expecting it. Like I said, suuuper relateable. Being that the author's mother passed from cancer I think it would strike a particular chord with that crowd, but even just loss in general is a very relateable topic with this memoir. Thank you so much to Penguin Teen for sending me an advanced copy to read, it showed up at the perfect time!
Profile Image for Rhea (Rufus Reads).
76 reviews113 followers
September 25, 2020
Variety one is your regular crying because you relate to something and it feels so personal. And then there is variety two - where you don't relate to it, you don't really know what it's like - but the sheer depth of that potential grief, of someone else's lived experience, moves you to tears.

This book was a big variety two boo hoo machine. If you're someone who has experienced the grief of losing a loved one, picking this up is a no-brainer. But even if you are a "grief ally" - such that you are met with second-hand grief of a loved one - this is still recommended reading. It's such a poignant attempt at disentangling the mess that grief is, how to be around people who are grieving, how to... ah, this isn't a self-help book, y'know? It's a memoir. It's personal, it's selfish, it's not elegant, but it is very very very real. And definitely moved me to tears more than 3 times, but the sweet 'oh my god my heart is too full imma crie' kind.

The writing, the illustrations, the panels - everything works really well. Gift this to someone you think needs this? If that's you - you deserve to gift this to yourself <3
Profile Image for Rod Brown.
4,950 reviews162 followers
June 21, 2020
Tyler Feder was a freshman at college when her mom died of cancer at 47. It was pretty easy for me to identify with this tale of loss and grief as my father died at 52 just before my sophomore year of college and my mother died a decade later of cancer at age 54. I am now on the verge of living a longer life than either of them.

While there is nothing revelatory herein, it was comforting to recognize similar thoughts about mourning, and I welcomed the prompt to revisit the lives and deaths of my own parents, to touch on the sadness of our time apart and dwell on the joy of our time together.

If there is a fault in the book, it might be that it is so introspective I hardly got an impression of the impact of the death of Feder's mother on Feder's father and sisters.
Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 6 books1,205 followers
February 29, 2020
Fresh still in my own grief, Tyler's book about losing her mother to cancer at a young age really hit me hard. It's raw and visceral while also being quite funny. Everything she experienced in terms of grief is something I'm learning and understanding quite well, though our circumstances are obviously different. But the voice, the pain, and the ways that healing is non-linear are damn good here. I've always loved Tyler's work, and her marriage of art and storytelling are fantastic.

This will bring comfort to so, so many people. It is one that'll get you in your emotions. The art is beautifully full-color.
Profile Image for SheAintGotNoShoes.
1,521 reviews1 follower
March 16, 2022
Wow - this was brilliant. It was recommended to me by the librarian at my local branch and it certainly did not disappoint. Raw, honest and heartfelt graphic memoir of the illness and ultimate death of her beloved mother. 💜💜💜

Profile Image for Xueting.
262 reviews121 followers
October 5, 2021
I’m in awe of how the author made a book about loss and grief, such heavy and complex subjects, somehow a light and warm read? It was so moving and humorous at the same time. I realIy love the raw, unfiltered honesty (including some uglier stuff like the author’s sense of guilt and frustrations), the cute, vibrant illustrations, and the witty humour.
Profile Image for Candace Hernandez.
115 reviews34 followers
March 25, 2020
Thank you @penguinteen #PenguinTeenPartner for sending an ARC of #DancingatthePityParty my way! And an extra thank you for sending along the cutest little packages of tissues, because I certainly needed them. I didn’t even make it through the prologue without crying. 😭

When I was 13 years old, I lost my mom to stomach cancer. We all know those pesky teen years are rough, and losing a parent during that time (or any time, for that matter) added an extra layer of crap to it.

I had a feeling this book was going to be an emotional rollercoaster, but somehow @tylerfeder managed to seamlessly blend grief with humor in just the right way. I laughed, I cried. I laughed so hard I cried. So much about this book resonated with me (my copy is COVERED in book darts). I have vivid memories of returning to school after my mom died and experiencing that awkward “reintroduction” to friends - not wanting to be the center of attention while also becoming the person that comforts others about your own grief. Tyler captured that feeling so well.

While this book covers a sensitive topic, it still managed to bring me so much comfort. The illustrations are gorgeous and are often the source of humor throughout the narrative. I would highly recommend this book to everyone - not just those of us that are a part of The Dead Mom Club!

I wish I had a book like this when I was 13, but I am so grateful to have it now. I’m hopeful this book falls into the hands of the sons and daughters that need it so they know they aren’t alone in their grief.

DANCING AT THE PITY PARTY is out 4.14.20 (20 days from now!), so mark those calendars and get your pre-orders in now!
Profile Image for Jacqueline.
183 reviews16 followers
September 30, 2022
Who would think that this book might utterly destroy you, reading it mere months after your mom died? I did!
Who still decided to read it? I did!
Who was still surprised that it utterly destroyed me? I was!

This graphic memoir feels like talking to a friend who knows me through and through. Am I sad? Yes. Do I still want to make horrible, inappropriate jokes? Also yes. Grab me a membership for her idea of a Dead Moms Club.

Feder encapsulates the smallest, innermost feelings of loss and grief in a way that makes me want to jump up and scream YES! THIS! NO ONE GETS THIS PART! (Also, I'm happy when you don't get this part, I hope ot means you haven't lost anyone yet). It might also be because Feder is an anxious INFJ (fun!), but everything resonated so well.
Profile Image for Carmen.
438 reviews14 followers
November 15, 2020
I am sad and everything hurts. I probably would've finished this faster if I wasn't busy crying my eyes out. 10/10 would recommend whether or not you've lost a parent or close family member, but especially if you have because I've never seen a book completely capture what it's like to lose someone to cancer down to the false hope on top of perfectly describing grief.
Profile Image for MaryJo.
26 reviews
April 16, 2020
After losing my own mother on Sept. 2019, I found this this deeply refreshing to read. I spent months after losing her searching for people my own age (28) that have lost their mother young like me. Tyler Feder's experience was much like my own. The feelings and writings of grief throughout this book are real, and truthful.

From the feelings of jealousy of people who have mothers, to saving literally everything my mother ever touched or used, to dealing with first holiday's, birthdays, not being able to call your mother, and the ever dreading holiday that is Mother's Day, Tyler Feder's graphic novel memoir of her own experience made me feel as if I was not alone. Grief is hard to process, but Dancing at the Pity Party is a wonderful and beautiful explanation of what it is like losing a loved one, and finding your "New Normal".

As a new member of the Dead Moms Club, Tyler Feder made me feel welcomed, not crazy in my emotional rollercoaster of grief, and most importantly, that I was not alone.
Profile Image for Noa.
443 reviews26 followers
June 21, 2020
I really liked this graphic memoir. I thought it would make me cry since it's father's day and I have lost my dad. It didn't (not good or bad) but it made me feel seen. Talking about grief with even family can be awkward so it can be even worse talking about it with your friends - especially with those who don't know what you're going through. So reading Tyler's story of her mom and her grief and being able to connect with that felt really good. Our stories are similar but different but I totally understood the references Tyler was making and it was like "finally! someone who gets it!"
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