University of the Arts London
Girls living in dangerous times.mp4 (640.28 MB)

Cath Appleton - Girls living in dangerous times: the representational issues in retelling a historic traumatic event as a graphic memoir

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posted on 2020-06-29, 15:53 authored by Cath Appleton

There is an increasing need for stories in YA literature about the social challenges people face from which readers can build understandings and potentially empathise. The aim of this paper is to examine how the traumatic experience of girls can be uniquely represented in the graphic memoir. In the creation of my graphic memoir The Wounds of Separation (2018) I researched the way other women graphic novelists have written about their own challenging childhoods. In this paper I identify how visual representations of a young self is combined with their adult textual narrative voices. I show how the approaches used by Una’s in Becoming Unbecoming (2015) inspired my own creative piece.

I argue the girl protagonists are shown to be wounded and vulnerable victims of their experience. This picture is balanced with representations of their inner determination and strength which enables them to overcome their difficult circumstances. I ask how is the text and image relationship used to convey girl’s experience and show their agency in the sequence of events. I also consider how the multimodal features of the graphic memoir are stylistically constructed to assist a YA audience connect to unfamiliar experience in order to empathise with it.



Cath Appleton is a visual storyteller, researcher and academic; she gained her doctorate by creative work in the Faculty of Education at Queensland University of Technology, Australia. Her research centers on the representational issues in retelling a historic traumatic event as a graphic memoir. She looks at the way memory, history and identity intertwine shaping how traumatic experience is remembered. Her graphic memoir The Wounds of Separation is soon to be published. It is based on the experience of forced migration suffered by her mother, Ella Eberštark. As a young girl she was evacuated from Czechoslovakia to Britain on a Kindertransport train in 1939 before the outbreak of WWII.