I was recently reading a post on Xanga about a girl’s experience with a teacher who told her that he didn’t believe graphic novels were literature. As an English grad. student who is a huge fan of the medium, I was shocked–I’ve read so many astonishingly beautiful and heart-wrenching graphic novels that I can’t imagine that they could be anything else. They have the power to affect us emotionally, draw us in, and help us to relate to people whose experiences may be different from our own. They can be a powerful medium of communication.
That being said, I have seen a graphic novel series lately that depicts the story of a family affected by autism. It’s called ‘With the Light‘ by Keiko Tobe (for those of you who want the precise term, it’s actually a manga, which is a Japanese form of graphic novel).
There are currently four volumes out with a fifth to be released in September. Publisher’s Weekly describes the series as:
“Potentially one of the most significant mangas in years … this engrossing book is certainly one of the most unusual: a long, realistically drawn narrative about a young couple coping with the discovery that their infant son is autistic. Masato and Saachiko Azuma need time to realize that their beautiful little boy, Hikaru, is unable to communicate personally. The official diagnosis of autism confuses and devastates the parents. Masato dives headlong into his career to avoid home; Sachiko is angry at Hikaru’s behavior, but also tormented by guilt that she’s somehow to blame. As they learn and experience more, they become closer to Hikaru and each other. They meet helpful allies, collide with ignorant hostility and savor glimpses through cracks in Hikaru’s shell. They become a family. As this volume ends, the three of them are adjusting to a new family member—Hikaru’s little sister. The story works as a comic. too; fluid layout keeps the action moving through pages of talking-head conversations, and the childish innocence of manga characters has never been more appropriate. Just as Tom Batiuk used breast cancer as a basis for his outstanding Lisa’s Story, so With the Light also offers a moving, artistically successful experience.”
My cousin, Sam is an aspie, and I have a desire to learn more about the autism spectrum–I think that this particular graphic novel could be a fantastic teaching tool as well as a beautiful artistic realm that has not yet been explored–I look forward to reading the series.
Have you heard of/would you read With the Light? Do graphic novels have the potential to inform others about autism and help them to understand it better?