cover image Brittle Joints

Brittle Joints

Maria Sweeney. Street Noise, $20.99 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-951491-26-0

Cartoonist Sweeney debuts with a candid portrait of life with a disability, drawn in delicate brushstrokes and natural colors. Born in Moldova in 1994, Sweeney showed early signs of Bruck syndrome, which causes fragile bones and joint contractures. After her birth parents placed her in an orphanage, she was adopted by an American family and grew up in New Jersey, where she was wracked with searing joint pain and frequent bone breaks. Through a series of short chapters illustrating various stages of her life, Sweeney shines a critical light on the ableism she was forced to contend with, including a lack of affordable transportation, an expensive and out-of-touch healthcare system, and even the high hospital counters she couldn’t see over when sitting in her wheelchair. Yet despite these challenges and her constant physical pain, Sweeney finds peace among her friends, with her boyfriend (“It feels good to lean on someone”), smoking marijuana, and in nature. It’s a revealing visualization of a rare, “depersonalizing” condition and how Sweeney finds “drops of disabled joy whenever I can.” Sweeney’s subtle and elegant art reflects the nuance of her moment-to-moment struggle to ground her self apart from chronic pain. Fans of Ellen Forney’s Marbles will want to add this to their list. (July)