The consequences of such dehumanizing discourse in people with Alzheimer's can be seen throughout the narrative, but specially in the chapter entitled "Unreal" Figure 4. The chapter begins with the account of an acquaintance's suicide and the indication that it might have been related to Alzheimer's. The first five frames are dedicated to that story and illustrate, in a very static fashion, the deceased, the method, and the alleged reason for it: "She was a wealthy, elegant old lady. They found her in her car in the closed carport with the engine running. She had left a medical book on her coffee table.
It was open to the chapter on Alzheimer's" The detached, almost journalistic, tone of these first frames is contrasted with the rest of the chapter, which has a much more intimate and domestic atmosphere. The remaining part of the chapter portrays telephone conversations between Sarah and both her parents that occurred on the day she heard about the suicide and on the following day. One frame stands out in the page, with a complaint Midge makes to her daughter: "I'm not a real person anymore!
The jagged lines of the balloon indicate the intensity of the statement, at least for the listener, and the blackness surrounding it suggests that it was enough of a shock to block everything else from sight for Sarah. The juxtaposition of the two stories, the acquaintance's suicide and Midge's complaint, establishes a connection between them, while, at the same time, placing in evidence the metaphor of 'losing oneself' or 'losing personhood,' commonly associated with Alzheimer's.
Throughout the chapter, with the exception of the suicide account in the first few frames, the visual narrative focuses primarily on the narrator's perspective: her side of the conversation is the only one being portrayed, for example. In the following page of the chapter Figure 5 , Sarah discusses the repercussions of her mother's confession with her father, again over the telephone.
On this page, one particular frame stands out in the same manner as in the previous page: black space filling the panel, jagged lines contouring the balloon. It presents the culmination of a conversation between Sarah and her father, where he concludes: "I think she wants to kill herself but she isn't capable of it now" The connection between these two frames further corroborates the construction of the notion of non-personhood associated with Alzheimer's and euthanasia as the supposedly logical conclusion for those with that status. Johnstone states that "whereas Alzheimer's disease has emerged as a synonym for losing ownership and control, euthanasia has emerged as its antonym, that is, it has come to symbolize gaining ownership and control" , original emphasis.
Apparently a part of the discursive phenomenon described by Johnstone, the chapter "Unreal" is riddled with assumptions about suicide and Alzheimer's. Despite the absence of a suicide note, the narrative suggests a direct causal relation between the wealthy lady killing herself and the book opened to the chapter on Alzheimer's on the coffee table.
Later, during their telephone conversation, Rob indicates his suspicions about Midge's thoughts of suicide, a conjecture based only on his own reading of her actions. Actually, as far as the narrator informs us, Midge's explicit complaints were very specific and related the way she was being treated like a child by her husband, as well as the desire to be on her own Midge has to deal with the social stigma related to Alzheimer's, even in her own family, and internalizes the metaphors of the disease, as evidenced by the statements "I'm a nobody" and "I'm not a real person anymore!
Rob and Sarah, on the other hand, jump to conclusions about her complaints and about the old lady's suicide based on their own notions of personhood and agency in relation to Alzheimer's. Throughout the narrative, the marked representation of Midge with Alzheimer's competes and shares space with the more familiar Midge. The latter, however, begins to slowly disappear from the account, replaced by the former. Up until a certain point in the narrative, the two doubles coexist, in a balance of some sort. At one moment, however, a shift occurs and the balance between the two Midges eschews.
The marked Midge, who at first appeared only episodically, begins to completely eclipse the familiar Midge. The turning point occurs in the chapter entitled "Bird Brain" Figure 6. The one-page chapter recounts a particular episode between Sarah and her mother, in which the latter tries to call the attention of her daughter to the birds at the feeder. Midge is portrayed trying to interact, but unable to elaborate on her thoughts, something that frustrates Sarah.
The episode has no date to contextualize it and, at first, appears to be just another anecdote of Midge's Alzheimer's. The chapter, however, marks a turning point in the narrative: it is the representation of the moment Sarah loses track of whom she considered to be her mother. From that moment on in the narrative, Midge is depicted predominantly as the subject of Alzheimer's. The visual metaphor puts Midge out of reach, her daughter's or anybody else's, flying away oblivious to any other mundane concerns. For Sarah, it symbolizes the moment of letting go, mostly of the idea of her mother.
The narrator writes: "I had a vision of myself as a child, trying to grasp her leg as she fluttered away to join the birds. I couldn't hold her here on earth with me, no matter how hard I tried" While the metaphor of the blank stare corroborates a lot of assumptions surrounding Alzheimer's, as previously argued in this article, the visual metaphor of the bird flying away from reach goes against that grain.
Johnstone concludes her argument about the implications of Alzheimer's metaphors on the discourse of euthanasia suggesting the necessity for.
In this sense, Tangles portrays the two sides of the debate. It depicts the person with Alzheimer's as a non-person in a lot of ways. The written narrative establishes this in Midge's own words, while the visual narrative portrays Alzheimer's as a dehumanizing feature through the blank stare, the reptilian tongue, the self divided from the body, and so on.
On the other hand, the visual metaphor of the bird flying away, which marks a turning point in the narrative, makes use of a different symbology, one that is not dehumanizing, in spite of its non-human characteristics. The bird metaphor suggests that, although out of reach, flying away from her daughter's grasp, Midge maintains some of her subjectivity, albeit in a different self. If, as Tobin Siebers argues, "aesthetics tracks the emotions that some bodies feel in the presence of other bodies," the employment of visual metaphor as a trope to represent disability is a deliberate attempt to evoke such emotions in the reader "Disability Aesthetics" George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, on their turn, define metaphor precisely through its sensory effects on the body For them, metaphors help people coherently create connections between each other, a process that is not merely a question of intellect or language, but one involving individuals' common-ground connection with the material dimensions of the world and its sensory-motor domains , , Visual metaphor of disability in Tangles, therefore, surfaces primarily as a catalyst of these emotions and senses.
One of the catalyzed responses brought forth by the visual metaphor of disability in the graphic memoir is the impetus to stare. As Rosemarie Garland Thomson defines, the stare is the individual's response to the unfamiliar, that which is out of the ordinary, illegible 3.
In the graphic memoir, the disabled body is, thus, discursively emphasized through visual metaphor in a process that reinforces the staring often associated with deviant bodies. The stare performed through graphic memoirs is one that can be done anonymously by the reader, without concern for reciprocity or judgment from others, allowing an unabashed scrutiny of someone else's deviancy Garland Thomson comments on the two-way nature of the stare, as it is "as inauspicious to starers as it is to starees, both of whom stand to lose status in the exchange" Specifically due to the graphic memoir's visuality, the narrative plays on the potential of this forbidden stare.
The non-fictional status of graphic memoirs also adds to the spectacle being offered. If manuals of etiquette discourage the stare, specifically of people with disabilities , these visual portrayals of disability seem to invite it. In Tangles , the act of staring assumes a central role in the narrative, most notably through Midge's portrayal of the blank stare. As Garland Thomson defines, the blank stare is a type of vague look that suggests a lack of mental faculties for the person who bears it As such, the blank stare is often used to characterize people with disabilities and, visually, it is employed as a marker of deviance, functioning as a sign of "visual impotence" for the character in a given narrative In Tangles , Midge is portrayed, through her blank stare, as someone deprived of agency, as the previous analyses have pointed out.
The progression of Alzheimer's is directly related to the blank stare, which becomes a permanent fixture in her portrayal in the later stages of the illness. It is possible to conceive the impact of staring in Midge's representation as twofold: first, as the blank stare characterizes her as a subject inherently deviant, visually impotent; second, as she herself becomes an object of staring, seeing that the narrative invites the reader to focus in the ways in which she slowly loses legibility as Midge. The page quoted from the chapter entitled "Taste and Smell" Figure 3 , for example, portrays Midge as a staree within the narrative.
In the bottom six frames, Midge is shown under the scrutiny of the narrator, who seems to invite the reader to join in on the inspection of the many symptoms affecting her mother, such as the odd choice of clothes, the sweating, the bad breath The thirteenth frame of the page, in particular, where Midge is presented carrying a shoe in her hand after getting dressed, is revealing of this invitation to stare. In that frame, visual narrative assembles a list of oddities for the reader to linger on. A number of arrows point to Midge's body, visually substantiating her deviance in the narrative:.
Accessories and footwear carried around until abandoned. Ultimately, in Tangles , the visual narrative mimics the staring process. The positioning of arrows literally points to the ways in which Midge deviates from the norm, inviting the reader to dwell on the frame in order to take in all of the information. The final frame of the page is emblematic in this regard, as it portrays the young Sarah pointing at her mother in shame: "I was so embarrassed.
It reminded me of when I was a teenager and I wouldn't walk with her at the mall because she dressed weird" The reenactment of the self-conscious embarrassment of her teenage years in the last frame suggests a more critical view of the staring being performed in the earlier frames. Or, at least, it indicates the narrator's awareness of the, perhaps unavoidable, process of putting her mother in the position of staree.
Besides this questioning, Tangles offers some alternatives of representation that do not engage in a type of staring that objectifies the staree. The visual metaphor of the flying bird Figure 6 appropriates the blank stare that marks Midge as a subject of Alzheimer's in a liberating way. As a bird flying away, Midge is still an object of her daughter's stare and is still portrayed bearing the recurring blank stare characteristic of her illness in the narrative. Unlike other depictions throughout the story, however, in this particular frame she does not appear constrained by that stare.
In comparison, the frame at the bottom left of the page presents a more 'realistic' portrayal of the event, for the narrator, and in that frame Midge is seen staring down, with a sad countenance-a representation confined to the limits of her blank stare.
As both types of portrayal are juxtaposed, one can see the potential of visual metaphor as an empowering narrative device in terms of representing disability. Ballenger, Jesse F. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, Barthes, Roland.
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Image Music Text. Stephen Heath. London: Fontana Press, Carroll, Noel. Jaako Hintikka. Couser, G. El Refaie, Elisabeth.
Charles Forceville and Eduardo Urios-Aparisi. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter, Forceville, Charles. Pictorial Metaphor in Advertising. London and New York: Routledge, Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. Staring: How We Look. New York: Oxford University Press, Johnstone, Megan-Jane. Farnham: Ashgate, Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson.
Sarah Leavitt talks about her Alzheimer's memoir Tangles
Metaphors We Live By. London: University of Chicago Press, Leavitt, Sarah. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, McGills, Ian. Siebers, Tobin. Sontag, Susan. Additionally, Our Cancer Year includes the everyday struggles and humor involved in keeping up with world events, purchasing a house, and trying to work, all while caring for someone who is ill. For more information about lymphoma, visit MedlinePlus. Psychiatric Tales contains 11 black and white illustrated vignettes about people suffering from mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, anti-social personality disorder, depression, and schizophrenia.
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In , artist Jenny Lin was hit by a garbage truck while riding her bike. The graphic novel explores the nature of perception, memory, and storytelling in relation to trauma, illness, and recovery. In the autobiographical graphic novel The Spiral Cage , author and artist Al Davison chronicles his life with spina bifida. In addition to these early experiences, the novel discusses how Davison learned karate and studied Buddhism as he matured, and eventually became an illustrator.
Despite enduring painful surgeries and setbacks, the book shows Davison flourish with an unyielding optimism and drive.
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For more information about spina bifida, visit MedlinePlus. His unhappy, uninterested parents did not tell him about his illness, but took him to undergo an operation to remove the cancer.
The doctor removed his thyroid and one of his vocal chords, rendering him unable to speak. After the operation, Small struggled living in a hostile household, while trying to heal and adjust. A caring psychiatrist and art helped him recover. For information about Radiation Exposure, visit MedlinePlus. Epileptic is the graphic autobiography of David B. When Jean-Christophe was struck with epilepsy at age 11, the family traveled around Europe to see a host of alternative medicine experts and find a cure. For more information about epilepsy, visit MedlinePlus. Written as an imagined conversation between Husband and his father, Ron, the book chronicles the progression of the disease and what it was like caring for someone struggling with dementia.
Husband acknowledges all of the interests his father had prior to the disease and how his father slowly began to forget names, dates, and appointments. For more information about dementia, visit MedlinePlus. Already suffering from a hearing disorder, Porcellino had emergency surgery to remove a benign tumor in his lower intestine. Post-surgery complications and a series of other illnesses led to increased anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms. Together, these issues created problems in his marriage and work life.
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For more information about coping with chronic illness, visit MedlinePlus. Matilda Tristram, a British writer and animator, found out she had bowel cancer when she was 17 weeks pregnant with her first child. The graphic memoir Probably Nothing tells the story of her diagnosis, treatment, and pregnancy. She underwent surgery that left her with a colostomy bag and had 6 months of chemotherapy.
For more information about cancer during pregnancy, visit MedlinePlus. David Wojnarowicz was a painter, photographer, writer, performance artist, and activist who was prominent in the New York City art world of the s.
Tangles : a story about Alzheimer's, my mother, and me
He died of the disease in Wojnarowicz wrote the book, which contains sci-fi illustrations, beginning with his youth as a gay prostitute on the streets of Manhattan. The graphic memoir chronicles his battles with homelessness and drug addiction, and his living with AIDS and waiting to die. Swados originally hid her life-long battle with depression from those around her. She pictures her depression as a small black cloud that morphs into an endless black hole that includes feelings of self-loathing and wanting to end her life.
His graphic memoir, My Degeneration , shows how the illness has affected his life. Throughout the narrative, Dunlap-Shohl changes his diet and exercise routines, finds support groups, and tries to maintain a positive attitude while coming to terms with an incurable disease. The graphic memoir tells the story of an elderly couple, Lars and Rachel, who live on their own in South Los Angeles.
The couple tries to maintain their independence as their health declines, but this proves increasingly difficult, especially when they are stuck inside their home during the riots. Their daughter, Laura, steps in to help as much as she can, performing household chores, helping her parents with personal hygiene, and eventually becoming their caretaker as they move closer to death.
Exhibition Collection. Zoom Text MedlinePlus. Why comics to tell stories about health and illness? Zoom Text. All rights reserved. Abrams, Inc. Courtesy MariNaomi In her graphic memoir, author and artist MariNaomi recounts a personal journey of discovery that included her experiences with panic attacks, culture clashes, and struggles to communicate.
Copyright c Brian Fies. Book Description Skyhorse , Condition: New. Seller Inventory ZZN. More information about this seller Contact this seller. Book Description Skyhorse. Book Description Simon and Schuster. Brand New. Seller Inventory Language: English.
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Brand new Book. In this powerful memoir the the LA Times calls "moving, rigorous, and heartbreaking," Sarah Leavitt reveals how Alzheimer's disease transformed her mother, Midge, and her family forever. In spare blackand- white drawings and clear, candid prose, Sarah shares her family's journey through a harrowing range of emotions--shock, denial, hope, anger, frustration--all the while learning to cope, and managing to find moments of happiness. Midge, a Harvard educated intellectual, struggles to comprehend the simplest words; Sarah's father, Rob, slowly adapts to his new role as full-time caretaker, but still finds time for wordplay and poetry with his wife; Sarah and her sister Hannah argue, laugh, and grieve together as they join forces to help Midge.
Tangles confronts the complexity of Alzheimer's disease, and ultimately releases a knot of memories and dreams to reveal a bond between a mother and a daughter that will never come apart.