Review of Dancing at the Pity Party: A Dead Mom Graphic Memoir

Dancing at the Pity Party: A Dead Mom Graphic Memoir
by Tyler Feder; illus. by the author
High School    Dial    202 pp.    g
4/20    978-0-525-55302-1    $18.99

This moving and candid graphic memoir offers a refreshingly honest portrayal of grief and growing into adulthood “for anyone struggling with loss who just wants someone to GET IT.” Through narration, flashbacks, and playful graphic elements, Feder depicts her experiences before, during, and after her mother’s cancer diagnosis and subsequent death in 2009, when the artist was a sophomore in college. The typeface of the first-person text appears hand-lettered, within and around panels that are not-quite-straight, creating an intimacy and immediacy that highlight the narrator’s casual, vulnerable, and sometimes comical voice. (“Not to be melodramatic, but it was THE WOOORST.”) Reflections on mental health, Jewish identity, and adjusting to college life make Feder’s memoir feel distinct and genuine. She includes “the good, the bad, and the awkward” moments, too; in one scene, family members smile cheerily for a photo while simultaneously sitting shiva and celebrating a birthday. Back matter includes photographs and mementos. Sincere but not sappy, this bittersweet and affecting meditation on the author’s experiences also serves as a heartfelt celebration of her mother’s life.

From the May/June 2020 Horn Book Magazine.

Elisa Gall

Elisa Gall is a teacher-librarian at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. 

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