MMGM and #IMWAYR: Smile!
Fun fact—this post contains two made-up hashtags and an unprompted Star Wars reference! You're welcome.
Also, I'm continuing with my Raina Telgemeier re-read with the eternal classic. I'm probably going to pause the re-read for a bit, but I'll be pumped to get to Sisters and Guts soon!
For now, though, let's talk about the book that changed everything...Smile!
- Raina Telgemeier writes in the back matter of my Smile collector's edition (#humblebrag) that "being able to laugh at trauma and misfortune is something everyone seems to appreciate." So many people certainly relate to the twists and turns and pain and absurdity of the medical chaos comprising Telgemeier's story. And honestly, I do wonder if some voyeurism and downward comparison sneak into the equation as well. But also, I think something about Telgemeier's frank willingness to let you into her story (which can't have been as easy to do as she makes it look) feels like an act of compassion to the reader. It's like she's saying, "Stop worrying about your life right now—worry about mine for a bit instead."
- It's incredible to me, as a permanent overanalyzer, how Telgemeier never overanalyzes her own childhood in Smile. She gets all the subtext in there, but the focus is always on how she felt and thought at the age she was in the story. She's able to unearth her memories and present them in a way that feels like a pure, unadulterated dose of childhood—it works so well.
- And this is one of those stories, like Best Friends a few weeks ago, that brings hope—hope that things won't stay hard forever, and that the pain of childhood eases with time. And part of how Smile brings that hope is by demonstrating, beautifully, how everyone has the right to set boundaries, stand up for themselves, and take care of themselves—including teenage Raina.
- OK, also, can we get some applause for Raina's mom?! Telgemeier writes in the back matter that "She was my hero for sticking with me through all of my dental ups and downs." She's clearly not having a fun time with her daughter's situation, yet she pushes through with aplomb and makes sure child Raina feels loved and cared for. Just, wow. #parentinggoals
- And there are so many little things scattered through this story that I love. We hear about The Little Mermaid, a giant earthquake, even a smidge of Nintendo gaming (on an NES, no less!). Telgemeier's facial expression game is on point once again—like, forget all the other technical and philosophical reasons this story works well as a comic, because just seeing people yelling with their tongues sticking out and absolutely hearing it in your head is reason enough for this format. Oh, and there's even a panel showing Telgemeier's ensemble days in high school, which as I mentioned last week, inspired her book Drama!