Lisa Macklem - Baby Steps: Lucy Knisley's Graphic Journey to Motherhood
conference contributionposted on 29.06.2020, 17:54 by Lisa Macklem
Rosalia Baena points out that in life writing “aesthetic concerns and the choice and manipulation of form serve as signifying aspects to experiences and subjectivities” (vii). Lucy Knisley has written extensively about her travels, her career as a graphic novelist, her love of food, and even her wedding, but in Kid Gloves she turns her attention to her quest to get pregnant, her pregnancy, and her harrowing experience in giving birth. Hilary Chute states that “there is a significant yet diverse body of nonfiction graphic work that engages with the subject either in extremis or facing brutal experience” (135). Kid Gloves joins this body of work as Knisley tells the reader that “this book records [her] thoughts, research, discoveries, and pitfalls over the course of the last two years” (3). While the novel is a personal history, like much of Knisley’s work, it contains much more than simply her personal experience, but that personal experience is also how the reader is able to relate to the subject matter as Knisley’s informal style creates a close relationship with her reader. According to Martha Stoddard Holmes, “comics invite readers to enter a distinctive relationship with time and space. Not only do comics render time as space, … but they also permit the reader an unusual degree of self-determination in his/her relationship to time and space, selecting how quickly to move and in many cases opting for multiple directional patterns and their associated narratives” (148).Knisley’s journey to motherhood, unfortunately, was fraught at every turn from miscarriages to severe morning sickness to eclampsia during, and after, childbirth. The accessibility of the novel by both word and picture provides a valuable non-threatening resource for women or anyone who wants to learn more about the subject of getting pregnant and giving birth. Knisley’s experience transcends the subjective to become a valuable resource. Knisley addresses the medical system in the United States and the disparity in how that system treats the lives of black women and their children differently. Her goal in writing the novel was to have a social impact on the experiences of women in getting pregnant and giving birth. The novel was not written with either the COVID-19 pandemic or the current Black Lives Matter movement in mind, yet the novel still resonates with both events.