Dancing After TEN

Fantagraphics. Jun. 2020. 128p. ISBN 9781683963165. Rated: Teen+. Tr. MEMOIR
Chong was literally scarred for life by a rare reaction to a common medication. Her story is so horrifying that it would be easy to gawk and move on quickly. Instead, in this memoir, Chong’s confident voice draws out the complicated reality of a debilitating medical condition with precision and purpose. The titular TEN is Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis, a skin condition that causes burns and scar tissue all over the body, and in Chong’s case, an induced coma followed by blindness and a brush with hearing loss. Chong covers her treatment clearly, but her quest to make meaning from the mess takes center stage. Her mother lives on the other side of the world, her hired aide is unkind, her friends and former flames are unreliable, and so she seeks to make her life her own again—by learning to cook, swim, and train a guide dog, but also by creating art from her suffering. Chong’s narrative conviction and artistic direction blended with Webber’s wiry illustrations are all-enveloping, communicating her huge challenge without pathos.
VERDICT A prime example of the graphic medicine genre, which illustrates medical conditions, often through lived experience, this work is engaging and informative but never feels teachy or preachy. [See Douglas Rednour’s “Picture This,” LJ 4/20.]
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