From guest blogger, Francisca Goldsmith:
There is a sweet and accessible aesthetic shared by a small contemporary cadre of French Canadian cartoonists that allows them to present difficult and realistic stories sweetly rounded by genuinely light moments and almost childlike visual appeal. Philippe Girard, a Quebecois cartoonist who first saw publication nearly 35 years ago, when he was eight, manages to tell his own soul searing adolescent experiences of coming acropper of a molesting priest and his adult reflections on the trauma without offering any tawdry visual content but by making the innocence of childhood visibly open and expressive. Like Alfred and Olivier Ka’s Why I Killed Peter (NBM, 2008), the priest is one who has charmed adults with his carefully groomed iconoclasm. Girard moves his story along at a much faster clip than did Alfred and in youth, unlike Alfred, managed to tell an adult who took action on his behalf. Both memoirs show what happens in the adult years of the abused boys in terms of psychological wars with their memories. Girard has added another layer to the straightforward narrative, however, by showing how, as a boy in fear and trouble, he turned to fiction and literally read himself into taking his brave stand against the molester. And, in a truly generous bit of truth telling, he shows how one of his allies was another priest, a trustworthy one. Religious layers aside, Girard’s message about gathering courage—both in the moment and years later when recalling memory publicly takes a different type of bravery—is effective and rare.
Adult/High School–Sixteen years after his own confrontation with a child molester, the author is faced with both the opportunity and threat of discussing the event as part of his journalism job’s coverage of a news event. In clear, flat black and white cartoons, Girard walks readers through the original traumatic events as well as his confrontation with memory as an adult. Intercutting the narrative of remembered and current events, he folds in snatches of an adventure story that helped him by offering solace in his loneliness as a new kid in town and courage and direction when he was accosted by the molester. An end note includes the author’s original desire to show the importance of books by including these snatches of adventure fiction in his memoir; he is fully successful in fulfilling that desire. While some of the details of young Philippe’s experiences are shared in other memoir and realistic fiction works, as well as news stories, his great gift to readers here is to move past the trepidation and disgust of coping with a priest abusing the power of his office to molest young boys to the valedictory both of telling on the priest, as a youth, and deciding to out himself, as an adult, as one of the priest’s intended victims. Frontal nudity of both adult and juvenile males appears, but teens will not find anything salacious here. Rather, they’ll find reassurance that reporting abuse can have a good outcome. — Francisca Goldsmith, Infopeople Project, CA