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Daddy's Girl by Debbie Drechsler

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Hardcover: 86 pages Publisher: Fantagraphics (30 Mar 2008) Language English ISBN-10: 1560978945 ISBN-13: 978-1560978947

Originally published in 1996, reprinted in 2008, Daddy's Girl neatly illustrates the reason I think it is pointless to try to divide graphic memoirs from graphic fiction. It is a "quasi" memoir, based on Drechsler's childhood experiences but narrated by two adolescent girls who both suffer abuse at the hands of older males. The naive style and heavy monochrome brushwork complement the teenage language. Most of the book is concerned with Lily, who, among her 3 sisters, is singled out for sexual abuse by her father, a working man who, in his spare time likes to do charitable work distributing goods to the poor; when he's not molesting and terrorising his daughter that is. Lily is made to feel that she is the seducer, is crippled by guilt and shame, seeks to protect her critical mother from the truth, finds comfort in eating and becomes unable to form normal relationships with boys her own age. The story is unsparingly graphic and very honest, but not without humour and hope. Many questions, such as whether Lily's mother is aware of the abuse, are left unanaswered. In the last section of this collection of comic strips we meed Franny, a lonely teenager in a new school who falls in with a group of dope smoking contemporaries. She is raped in the woods by their older, creepy, dealer. She doesn't tell anyone of the experience, fearing being blamed for placing herself in a vulnerable situation. Traumatised, she cuts herself off from her friends and then is subsequently persecuted by them. Her trust gone, she is unable to accept an invitation to a date from a boy her own age. The story concludes with her isolated and despairing, unable to write the poetry she previously excelled in.
There is no preface by the author and so we do not know how much of the narrative is based on Drechslers direct experience, but the stories are so raw, honest and heartbreakingly believable that the question seems irrelevant. This book is a classic example of how comics can articulate, and facilitate discussion of painful and difficult subjects in an imediately accessible and understandable way, straightforwardly and without melodrama.

key themes: abuse sex rape eating disorders adolescence depression the family

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