Sunday, January 31, 2010

Swallow me Whole by Nate Powell

I went to Borders today to browse the graphic novels section and stumbled across this. I pulled it off the shelf and read the back...story about a young girl with schizophrenia. In graphic novel format. Sounded like my cup of tea, so I bought it. Well now I wish I would've just bought everything that Nate Powell has written. Swallow Me Whole was such an interesting and human story that truly takes all of the taboos and stereotypes away from schizophrenia and as a mental health advocate I just want to hand it to everyone. Ruth comes from a family with a history of schizophrenia. Her grandmother, who is ill and unable to care for herself, is living with her, and shares her mental illness. Part of Ruth's schizophrenia is an obsession and a compulsion with bugs, with locusts in particular. She collects them and keeps them in glass jars in her room. She also has auditory hallucinations causing her to watch where she walks all the time so that she doesn't step on them. You can imagine how this affects her life. Her brother, Perry, has his own hallucinations, but they are not as extreme as Ruth's...he's able to control them slightly more than she can. Her parents are mostly understanding, but it's stressful for them as well. What I love about the way that Nate Powell portrays Ruth is that he never paints her as "crazy". We're shown Ruth as a person, first and foremost. A person that just happens to have hallucinations. She's a person WITH schizophrenia. She's NOT just a schizophrenic. I also love the fact that this is in graphic form and that we can see what schizophrenia may look like. I've never experienced hallucinations before, and while I certainly feel sorry for those that do and don't wish that life on myself or anyone else, I find it intriguing and often wonder what it's like. Swallow Me Whole is a book that's full of so many emotions. So so many. But it's ultimately a beautiful book. It lifts up your hopes and then crushes them. And then lifts them up a little bit more..and then...well, you get the picture. From what I've seen of the illness itself at the hospital I work at, that's fairly accurate. It's filled with moments of humor, it's filled with sadness. The art is really quite amazing! I didn't know what I thought about it at first, but by the time I finished it, I really loved it! It's quite different than anything else I've seen. After reading this one, I'll certainly be on the look out for more of Nate Powell's work. He's an author I hadn't heard of before, but one I'll be following from here on out.

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