Dumb: Living Without a Voice

Georgia Webber. Fantagraphics, $22.99 (196p) ISBN 978-1-68396-116-1
Silence is a curse and a gift in this meditative graphic memoir of illness and rebirth. Webber’s sudden, severe vocal injury destroys life as she knows it, from dampening her vibrant social life to making her job as a barista almost impossible. Instructed by doctors to remain silent indefinitely, she tries out all manner of novel ways to communicate: wearing bright lipstick to facilitate lipreading, faux whispering, toting around a whiteboard. As the annoyance this presents deepens into impairment and isolation, she finds herself questioning who she is without her voice—and what sort of person she might become. Webber’s spare art work is rendered entirely in black, white, and bright red. Simple visual cues provide elegant symbolism; cartoon stars lie heavy upon her as she visits the doctor, threaten to engulf her as she fails to heal, and spill over the book’s front matter. There is no cheap catharsis here; the healthcare machine is alienating, and Webber’s injury grows ever more enigmatic, as her loneliness remains. What the book becomes is an ode to doggedness and a testament to resilience through change. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 05/07/2018
Release date: 06/01/2018
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