Author: Tyler Feder
Publisher: Dial Books
First Published: April 14, 2020
Genres: Humor, Memoir, Mental Health Fiction, Young Adult
Part poignant cancer memoir and part humorous reflection on a motherless life, this debut graphic novel is extraordinarily comforting and engaging.
From before her mother's first oncology appointment through the stages of her cancer to the funeral, sitting shiva, and afterward, when she must try to make sense of her life as a motherless daughter, Tyler Feder tells her story in this graphic novel that is full of piercing--but also often funny--details. She shares the important post-death firsts, such as celebrating holidays without her mom, the utter despair of cleaning out her mom's closet, ending old traditions and starting new ones, and the sting of having the "I've got to tell Mom about this" instinct and not being able to act on it. This memoir, bracingly candid and sweetly humorous, is for anyone struggling with loss who just wants someone to get it.
I think one of my favorite things is stumbling into a graphic novel and finding a gem. This unassuming little graphic novel made me cry, but it also made me smile and laugh too. Dancing at the Pity Party is exactly as it says on the cover, it is a memoir about the death of the author’s mother.
This has honestly been one of the most heartfelt and honest stories about grieving and loss that I’ve ever read. I adored Tyler and her family, especially her fun and vivacious mother. This graphic memoir was written with so much love and honesty about the experience of losing one’s mom to the big C. Cancer. The looming darkness that everyone hears about but seems so far away until it hits home. The graphic novel details Tyler’s early life and her relationship with her mother onwards into college, when her mother is diagnosed, and the steady decline until the end.
I really admire Tyler’s bravery and her honesty about the rollercoaster of emotions that she had experienced. The conflicting joy at reaching adulthood, becoming independent, meeting new people, scoring career opportunities despite the worry about her mother’s health, the reality of deadly illness doesn’t feel real. She isn’t afraid to show that there is more than just being sad, there are the little joys of family throughout the entire experience. And that healing doesn’t mean that you’re forgetting, but that these types of experiences can shape us in many ways.
Despite the dark subject matter, the art is cheerful and fun, a loving ode to family and the memories created. I think this graphic novel can be relatable for a lot of people, whether or not they have lost a parent. It’s a wonderful memoir and that shows that grieving can take many forms.
“The certainty of loss was cold and steady under my feet.”
Trigger Warning: Family Death