Title: Stitches: A Memoir
Author(s): David Small
Artist(s): David Small
Languages: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Serbian
Grade Level(s): 9-12
Mature Content?: Abuse, Sexuality
Stitches isn’t just a title, it’s a condition. When David Small was a child, his radiologist father treated issues with his sinuses and digestive tract. As a young teen, a growth developed on Small’s neck, requiring surgery. After waiting three years, the surgery didn’t go quite as planned. What should have been a simple procedure turned into a life changing event. It left a long jagged scar stretching down his neck and destroyed half his vocal chords. How things went so wrong is also a mystery to Small. Small’s life was profoundly affected, not only in how he changed as he dealt with his new condition, but also in what he knew about his family. As he grows up in the boom years of the late 40s, 50s and 60s, Small watches his nuclear family’s half-life. Stitches: A Memoir is a dark, moving tale of family dynamics, expectation, disappointment, and trauma.
Small’s story shows the underbelly of the nuclear family. It provides insight into medicine of the era and family politics. In his postscript, he reveals that the gender roles he barely explored could’ve played a bigger part had this story not focused on him. The abuse he felt at the hands of his family and its history of mental illness also provide some fascinating teaching points. Stitches directly, if briefly, addresses what it means to be voiceless, which can tie personal narrative to social movements and change. Additionally, it examines the hardship of growing up different in a culture that doesn’t accept you, and what it means to experience traumatic medical changes.