by Jennifer Hayden
Reviewed by SA
Fans of this blog may notice that this book is a little out of the ordinary. Not only does it deal with a serious issue, it also doesn’t come out for a while, not until the end of September. But I wanted to talk about it now, to push people towards it.
I wanted to read something new: a graphic novel, sure, but also a true story about something incredibly serious. Breast cancer is something that will affect 1 in every 8 women (in the US); and for women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer. I wanted to read a first hand experience about dealing with this disease, and The Story of My Tits may be one of the most interesting and honest graphic novel I ever picked up.
Jennifer Hayden has had her ups and downs with her breasts: they weren’t always there for her, in many ways. Growing up flat chested and only blossoming while in college, she has a definite connection with her tits. But the usual family drama unfortunately is undermined by a cruel visitor: cancer. Three women, all diagnosed with cancer, fighting to survive. Not to mention the divorces, the mistresses, relationship issues with boyfriends, husbands and parents. Jennifer’s relationship with her tits slowly grows, matures, and changes completely, as she realizes just how much of a story they have to tell.
This book is very different from the ones we review on this blog. For starters, it is a memoir. It’s also a graphic novel, and a book about breast cancer. But it’s so unique, it is definitely worth the read, and a bit of contemplation. It’s a book that made me think, and really talked to me on a personal level, woman to woman. It made me grateful for the body I have, and aware that it may not always be there for me. It’s life affirming, empowering.
The story itself seemed a little long at times, as a whole lifetime is captured. Some events seemed somewhat irrelevant to the story as a whole, but it is a life that is being conveyed, so each part must matter to the author. It is how Hayden has chosen to tell her story, so I listened. And so should you.
What struck me was how honest and unashamed she was. The story really got to me because the author didn’t seem to hold back. Every thought, every fear was shared: fears for her family, her mother, her mother in law, herself. She speaks of what helped her through the worst, be it the support around her, or finding her own ‘goddess’ to bring her through the bad. It was like listening to a personal friend tell you everything about her experience with cancer. It really was eye opening.
The artwork really added to the essence of the novel: the author drew her experience for us to comprehend it better, which really helps create that author-reader connection. She’s a surrealist grappling with reality, with the sharp reality of cancer: as of such, her artwork reflects that, sometimes veering into the fantastic. This is how the author interprets her situation, and she takes you on a real journey with her.
In the end, it made me thankful for the tits I have. The odds of me or someone I know developing breast cancer as not in my favor, and this book reminds to me treasure my body, and my friends, and be thankful for the present. I feel like it’s required reading for people with tits: you never know how good you have it until this huge part of you is gone.
It’s sweet, sarcastic, skeptical, and honest. Well worth the read. The Story of My Tits comes out on September 29th.