Autism goes graphic (novel)

with the light 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?

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0 thoughts on “Autism goes graphic (novel)

  • June 25, 2009 at 11:15 am
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    @TacosAndTea@xanga – When I first heard the term “graphic novel” I figured it was a comic book….

    Ditto. Hence, my annoyance at the entry title’s wording.

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  • June 25, 2009 at 10:32 am
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    @CelestialTeapot@xanga – When I first heard the term “graphic novel” I figured it was a comic book, or had a lot of pictures because it has the word “graphic” in it.  I’m sure most people would think that way.

    Most people are pretty familiar with both terms these days though, so I guess this doesn’t even matter.

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  • June 25, 2009 at 7:27 am
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    I love With the Light! I’ve only read the first volume, because for some reason I can’t find the others. I’ve seen the second volume at least somewhere, but that was half a state away. I sure wish I could find it.

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  • June 24, 2009 at 10:23 pm
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    I completely and utterly disagree that manga / graphic novels are not literature.

    Just because they have pictures and less words than an actual novel does not make them any less of a substantial read. They still get our mind thinking, our imagination wondering, and our emotions reeling. They still teach us valuable lessons and tend to have a moral in all their stories.

    Do people disclude children’s pictures books as literature, as well?

    But anyways, I love when there are manga out there that show people that not all manga / anime are about fighting and large breasted women.

    I may consider looking into this…

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  • June 24, 2009 at 7:17 pm
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    @KrazeeKunoichi009@xanga – Manga IS what is considered to be a “graphic novel”. Graphic novels relates to anything that is in the “comic book” genre.

    1. Even if you are correct, using “Manga” in lieu of “graphic novel” would be more precise and meaningful.

    2. I argue that connotatively, you’re wrong. When you hear “graphic novel” in a neutral statement, more often than not, you’d conjure up works in the style of Batman or Sin City rather than Naruto or 20th Century Boys.

    3. Even going by your quoted definition, it seems as if you’re wrong. The tradition of the manga genre didn’t follow an evolution from “comic strips.” From the same site:

    comic strip

    –noun

    a sequence of drawings, either in color or black and white, relating a comic incident, an adventure or mystery story, etc., often serialized, typically having dialogue printed in balloons, and usually printed as a horizontal strip in daily newspapers and in an uninterrupted block or longer sequence of such strips in Sunday newspapers and in comic books.

    (underlining added by me)

    So by both the denotative and connotative meaning of the word, you’re wrong.

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  • June 24, 2009 at 7:10 pm
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    @TacosAndTea@xanga – Calm down.  Not everyone is familiar with the term ‘manga’, and ‘graphic novel’ is pretty damn close in its meaning.

    That’s a silly argument. If there is complete unfamiliarity with “manga” its meaning could have easily been communicated in the introductory paragraph of the entry.

    The the innundation of Japanese pop culture, “manga” isn’t all that obscure of a term.

    And in the same vein of your argument, not everyone is faimilar with “graphic novel.”

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  • June 24, 2009 at 12:20 pm
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    I found out about With the Light earlier this year. I love it! I think it’s a great novel, and I hope to own them all someday!

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  • June 24, 2009 at 4:24 am
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    @CelestialTeapot@xanga – Manga IS what is considered to be a “graphic novel”. Graphic novels relates to anything that is in the “comic book” genre. Basically, a book composed of pictures.

    graphic novel

    –noun
    a novel in the form of comic strips.

    -Kunoichi

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  • June 23, 2009 at 4:41 pm
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    I’m not sure I’d class manga as literature, even though I’ve been a fan of it for a long time, but that isn’t to say it can’t be touching and thought provoking. I’m an aspie, and I find it a lot easier to concentrate on, and to be honest I find it easier to get into the story emotionally (which obviously leads to enjoying it more.)
    I’m totally going to check out the title you mentioned, too, and I think it’s really sweet you’re learning more about autism/aspergers because of your cousin; my family have never been very supportive, unfortunately.

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  • June 23, 2009 at 2:00 pm
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    i used to read alot of manga, i might just check this one out. sounds very interesting.. 

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  • June 23, 2009 at 11:09 am
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    My immediate response to the idea of graphic novels not being literature was PLPLPLPLFT!  Which is my written form of a raspberry… Comic books and graphic novels are their own art form anyway, regardless of whether someone wants to consider them literature or not. Art is art, it is subjective.

    I have not heard of this series, but it sounds interesting. I might just go check it out.

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  • June 23, 2009 at 10:15 am
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    Manga =/= literature.  I love manga, but it’s not literature.  It’s pretty much a thick comic book.  The reason for this is with manga, you don’t have anywhere near the amount of back story, detail, or character development that you would see in literature.  Why?  Because you have pictures to cover the detail.  Because a lot of the time, the “back story” is a few glimpses tossed in here and there for page filler.  Because character development overall isn’t really needed unless you have a long running series.  For a series of manga, the character development you see is the only thing even close to what you see in literature.  Manga and graphic novels are pretty much comic books for adults/young adults.  Literature is Don Quixote de la Mancha.

    All that being said, I’ve never heard of or read that particular one, but it could make a good learning tool for people.

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  • June 22, 2009 at 11:36 pm
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    @chantyshira@xanga – Well put.  Besides, I have heard it’s not technically “manga” unless it’s in Japanese and reads opposite from American books (back to front).  In any case, the message is what matters here, right? 

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  • June 22, 2009 at 10:56 pm
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    I agree with you about graphic novels. Graphic novels combine words and visual drawings, both of which are seen as valid forms of art in their individual forms, so it doesn’t make sense that they’d be any less “artful” or “significant” when combined.

    Any literature teacher who doesn’t consider a good graphic novel to be a valid form of literature is an elitist who doesn’t know his or her own field of study. Any literature professor should understand that language is more subjective than drawings, and therefore it is a much less effective way to communicate.

    I’ve never heard about that manga series, but I’d be very interested in reading it. Thank you for bringing it up.

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  • June 22, 2009 at 10:17 pm
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    @CelestialTeapot@xanga – Yes it’s a manga series, but how is it not also a graphic novel?  Just because of the way it’s drawn, or because it’s Japanese?  Not all manga is a graphic novel, or vice versa, but I don’t think the two things are mutually exclusive…  anyway whatever it is, it’s still a good read.

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  • June 22, 2009 at 7:20 pm
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    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.

    I read it too- he obviously meant something akin to “High Art” which is basically an Elitist way dismissing anything they don’t consider to be good enough to be included with classic work.

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  • June 22, 2009 at 7:16 pm
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    It’s Manga ! Not friggin’ “graphic novel.” -_-

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  • June 22, 2009 at 5:32 pm
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    I read With the Light when my aspie brother showed it to me, and I think it’s fantastic.  It’s a bit idealized (with the exception of a few people, most of the friends, neighbours & relatives are super helpful and kind – which usually isn’t the case in real life) but it was very good at showing what autism is like.  

    The graphic novel format helps you connect to the characters and makes the information easier to absorb, IMO.  In fact, when you consider that most people on the spectrum think in pictures, it makes even more sense to have illustrations.

    Reply

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