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I Am Not These Feet by Kaisa Leka

iamnot

softcover: 62 pages Publisher:Absolute Truth Press Language English ISBN-10: 952-91-6023-2

availiable at http://www.kaisaleka.net/in_english/shopp/

Thanks to Adam Cadwell, who put me onto Kaisa's work. He met her at a comics convention and didn't realise she didn't have (flesh and blood) feet until she pointed out that what she stood on were hi-tec prosthetics.
Kaisa was born with deformed feet that caused her discomfort and made walking distances problematic. As she got older, arthritis set in, requiring painkillers and orthopedic shoes. After meeting a prosthetist and a number of amputees, Kaisa decided to get both her feet amputated. If that sounds like a radical move to you, it seems that her doctor was of a similar opinion, although evidently, Kaisa talked the surgeons round. Her boyfriend, Leka, introduced her to the Hare krishna philosophy and told her that her deformed feet were the kharmic product of the deeds of her past life. This evidently changed Kaisa's attatchment to her real feet and set her on course to do something about them...they say faith enables people to achieve extraordinary things. It seems obvious from the story that most healthcare professionals she encountered prior to the operation thought the author 'mad', and she relates how the surgeon who performed the operation was 'sad' and 'appologetic' afterwards. His concience, one suspects, may have been troubling him.
Kaisa's doubts, it seems, were few, and dispelled by the news that an elderly monk in India had told a friend of her's that she would be 'OK'. The book skips lightly through the build up to the operation, dwelling only momentarilly on the poignancy of Kaisa cutting her toenails for the last time the day before the operation. The rest of the book follows Kaisa's recovery, the frustrating delays in her being able to get out of bed and onto her newly made prosthetic feet.
Kaisa's graphic style could be said to fall into the 'cute' catagaory. She draws everyone as identical mice (tending more towards Disney than towards Spiegelman), distinguishable only by initialled T shirts or by distinctive uniformed apparel. The sole exeption is her boyfriend, Leka, who is a duck.
As someone who is quite attached to my own size nines, Kaisa's story gives me a slight case of the heebie-jeebies. That said, I like, and am intrigued by this book, but am left wanting to know more. A major decision, with lifelong concequences which may take years to play out are treated in a relatively light manner. Questions of body image and the aesthetics and sexual politics of disability are mentioned briefly without in-depth exploration. This is an extraordinary story, a fascinating topic, but reading it I am left unsure as to how to view Kaisa's actions (but then, what right do I, or anyone, have to 'judge'?). How does one come to such a life changing decision? It seems that it came about after meeting other amputees; was this a result of reassurance, or was there some form of identificatiion? I guess this is one of those cases in which the comic acts as a tool for opening an interesting but slightly uncomfortable discussion. I'll keep my eye out for Kaisa at future comics conventions, I'd like to know more!

key themes: amputation congenital deformity disability

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