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Lighter Than My Shadow

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Katie Green's graphic novel memoir, Lighter Than My Shadow , is a heavy book, both literally and figuratively. Simply holding the paperback gives the reader an idea of what is to come--the plus pages of this illustrated novel are hefty paper stock, the book a significant weight in the hands of the reader before it has even been opened.

Description: Lighter than my shadow

Marketed with adult graphic novels in the U. The reading experience is painful and exhausting as the protagonist repeatedly tries and fails to quell her illness and gain control of herself.

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Katie's problems with food began at a very young age. Mealtimes were tough at home: her parents would scold her for not eating and would force her to finish everything on her plate.

Lighter Than My Shadow

Eating was "even more difficult at school. A brief stint of family counseling helped with the disordered eating for a while, but when puberty hit, Katie's body issues increased and she began bingeing to deal with the pressures of bullies and her changing body. She remained thin, and her friends noticed:. I'd do anything to be skinny like Katie. Katie began comparing her body to others--"they all seemed so perfect One Lent during high school, Katie and her friends gave up junk food. This was a turning point for her; she felt "healthy. Clean and light. The author depicts her post-Lent binge as Katie surrounded by a mess of black scribbles with a protruding stomach and thick thighs, both of which she cuts clean off with a meat cleaver.

The illustrations of eating get darker and darker, Katie's throat coated in black scribbles, the dark haze flowing down to her stomach. This same black cloud follows her from room to room as it sits inside her. She is shown being ripped apart by the perceived unhealthy food until she eventually reaches a hand down her throat to pull the blackness out. But her attempts at purging were never successful. The disordered eating got worse as she began to use food as a reward: "One bite each time" she finished a page of homework. It was "better still," though, if she didn't "eat it at all.

Her recovery work began in earnest after her release: she went to therapy; her parents monitored her food; she stayed at home. But when she went back to school, the disordered eating took hold again. Eventually, Katie sought nontraditional help and was hooked up with a therapist, Jake, who worked "with stuck energy in the body. But as he built her up, he tore down her other relationships, asking her why she let her parents run her life, why she let them speak for her. Although Katie began to feel like she was getting better, the illustrations make it clear that she was still fighting the disordered eating--still surrounded by the black cloud, and being misled by an older man in a position of power.

As she started college, Katie continued to limit her intake, did yoga frequently and kept in touch with Jake. When she met a potential partner, Jake suggested her relationship with the young man was unhealthy, that he was controlling her. When Katie tried to have sex with the young man, the darkness came in as strongly as it ever had--and she broke up with him, at Jake's urging.

It was only after this experience that she realized Jake had been sexually assaulting her when she went in for "treatment. She thought her entire recovery was a lie. And so Lighter Than My Shadow goes. Katie makes steps in her recovery only to find herself limiting her intake. She feels strong but is unable to stop herself from bingeing. Over and over, Katie makes progress, only to trip and fall along the way.

The black-and-gray illustrations with occasional splashes of color set the tone and mood, depicting the bleakness of living with an eating disorder and the pain of uncovering abuse. The black scribbles are a constant; they stream out of a crevice in her head, they encroach upon her space.

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  5. They take over one page, then another and another, until there is only darkness. Anyone even remotely familiar with addiction will recognize the immense frustration and weariness with oneself that comes with this process--and anyone who reads this book, addiction or no, has no choice but to experience the malaise along with Katie.

    The outcome is ultimately positive--Katie's recovery steadies and evens out by the end of the work--but Lighter Than My Shadow depicts the road to recovery with extreme precision and care. It is tedious. It is painful. It is triggering. It is frustrating. It is recovery. Katie Green is a U. Green grew up in the London suburbs and moved to Bristol in to study, where she stayed for 10 years and recultivated her love of drawing. Her debut book, the graphic memoir Lighter Than My Shadow Lion Forge , took almost five years to complete and chronicles her descent into--and recovery from--disordered eating and sexual abuse.

    Green now lives in Devon with her partner and their rescue dog, Jack. No, I initially thought it was going to be prose--I was that person who thought that comics were for people who couldn't read proper books. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an illustrator of children's books and that's how I came to illustration in general. I picked up The Red Tree by Shaun Tan and thought I had this completely original idea to do a picture book for adults.

    I started telling my friends what I wanted to do and, when they gave me graphic novels, this whole world opened up to me. When I read my first graphic novel, it all fell into place. I thought, "This is what I need to do. The illustrative depiction of the illness is very powerful. How did you come to this imagery? How did you make it visual?

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    It was a really slow evolution. I started drawing to express to my parents how I was feeling. I originally drew the eating disorder as a giant green monster erupting out of my head. That was my starting point. When I decided to do the book for real, that was the metaphor that I went to. I did a lot of sketching and painting and collaging trying to evolve the idea and I went through all kinds of iterations until I just did a little scribble on the page. And that's the picture that ended up on the spine: the girl on the scale with a little cloud over her head.

    The moment I drew it, I knew I had found it. And the mouth on the stomach It felt visceral. It got to a point where I wasn't analytical about it. I wasn't thinking about how I was expressing it. I was back in that moment expressing it raw and it felt really right creating it like that. There gets to be this point where the illness is tedious--the reader gets sick of dealing with this illness and gets sick of dealing with her.

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