An Arab-American college student struggles to live with epilepsy in this starkly colored and deeply-cutting graphic novel.
Isaac wants nothing more than to be a functional college student—but managing his epilepsy is an exhausting battle to survive. He attempts to maintain a balancing act between his seizure triggers and his day-to-day schedule, but he finds that nothing—not even his medication—seems to work. The doctors won’t listen, the schoolwork keeps piling up, his family is in denial about his condition, and his social life falls apart as he feels more and more isolated by his illness. Even with an unexpected new friend by his side, so much is up against him that Isaac is starting to think his epilepsy might be unbeatable.
Based on the author’s own experiences as an epileptic, Mis(h)adra is a boldly visual depiction of the daily struggles of living with a misunderstood condition in today’s hectic and uninformed world.
This beautifully done graphic novels follows Isaac who is trying to graduate from college while suffering from epilepsy. His seizures are so bad he loses an eye after a bad one at a party at a friends place. Having to deal with his seizures and ending up in doctors offices and in the hospital where doctors don’t really listen to him while trying to attend class, barely managing to get through without flunking out. He learns that him pushing away in hopes of not inconveniencing them and that his life, despite his chronic illness, is worth living.
This story hit really close to home, leaving me still close to tears as I write this. I suffer from a chronic illness that had me flunking out of high school right before graduating, in too much pain just to breathe, let alone attend classes. I graduated four years later, when I was finally able to balance the pain and manage to listen to my body and not push it over the edge again. I still have bad episodes that leave me nearly unable to finish my own college classes and I don’t have anything to manage the pain, but I’m learning that my life is still worth it, just like Isaac. Like Jo, I suffered from Stevens-Johnson Syndrome while taking the same medication to help with my depression. I was lucky because I was warned ahead of time, so when my back started burning so bad I couldn’t have clothes touching it, my mom rushed to my pharmacist for me and got me started on meds to get it out of my system (I was in no condition to be going out. It took me a few days before the rash went down fully, so I didn’t end up in a life threatening experience like Jo, thankfully). I’ll always have the spots on my skin from it, in which almost flare up every now and again for one reason or another. But I didn’t fully know that it was that until I read this comic, that I wasn’t the only one that got it on my back instead of my feet and hands, which is why they didn’t send me straight to hospital for it. I cried because I wasn’t alone. And that’s why representation matters.
This book is simply beautiful as it is horrifying. But in that horror it isn’t hiding the truth or making seizures out to be something ‘romantic’ but life threatening. I showed that chronic illnesses can affect people and their lives so much and how hard you have to fighting with doctors over it because they don’t want to listen. I still end up in the ER being told my ribs are probably just inflamed and it’s not my Fibro and told to go home despite struggling to breathe. It’s not easy and this read isn’t either. But it does tell you the truth about chronic illnesses that many people don’t fully understand.
I highly recommend this book not only for the writing, but the art. It’s beautifully done and ties in the fact Isaac is Arab beautifully. This graphic novel is beautifully done as it is important. So do me a favor, read this book. And support those of us that are sick and understand that things aren’t easy for us. But we are trying our best. Don’t think we’re lying. Don’t abandon us because you don’t think we’re being true when we need you the most. I might not have had a Jo in person, but I had someone who was there for me when I needed them most and I admit, I fear I wouldn’t have survive it.
Rating: 5 stars