BY: Emily Gutierrez
DATE: 26 February 2018
In Lighter than My Shadow, author Katie Green shares her personal experience in living with an eating disorder, starting from the time that she was a young girl. This novel is unique in that it is not comprised of chapter after chapter of words on a page, telling the story of her experiences; instead, she tells us about her experience with eating disorders in the form of a graphic novel.
More than 500 pages are filled with illustrations, simply but artfully sketched, depicting Green’s journey through adolescence into adulthood. The words that accompany these sketches narrate her life, thoughts, and conversations as she navigates the development of and treatment for her eating disorder.
These sketches deliver the very powerful and raw portrayals of Katie’s experience. For instance, her destructive, disordered thoughts surrounding food, her body, and her peers are depicted by dark and messy scribbles above her head. They start out small, but as the thoughts get darker, messier, and more destructive, so do the scribblings—sometimes growing so large that they take over the whole page until they swallow Green whole. In watching this progression, the reader is confronted with what so many people with mental health issues face: pervasive negative thoughts that can feel as though they have entirely engulfed one’s life.
The introduction page of the book holds a short letter from the author to the person holding her novel. There Green expresses her intent to, “be honest about how hard recovery is, and how long it takes, at the same time proving that it is possible.” She encourages readers who are also suffering from an eating disorder or other mental illness and acknowledges the challenges of seeking treatment by saying that “getting better is so inherently personal, and everyone must choose it for themselves”. This book is her promise that “it can and does get better”. If you or someone you know is dealing with an eating disorder, this book can be a powerful insight into the realities of the illness and a reminder that no one is alone in illness, no matter how isolating it may feel.