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Escape from “Special” Miss Lasko-Gross

Posted By Denebola On October 20, 2009 @ 12:00 am In Book Review | Comments Disabled

Book review: Sean Turley

I remember very little of my childhood. I never kept a journal. There were no picture blogs documenting every charming angle of neither my “firsts nor a place like Facebook to link my embarrassing adolescent traumas to a digital timeline. When my parents did attempt to put my likeness onto film, I always cringed or hid. To my parents’ dismay, I always found having my self “captured a scary proposition.
Part of me has always liked the idea that my memories, as few as they are, remain unfinished, random recollections of moments without a well-rehearsed historical narrative or photographic scrapbook to bring them to life.
Over the last couple decades, Neuroscience has demonstrated the need for us all to be skeptical when considering the apparent objectivity of our memories.  When information comes into our brains through our senses, passes through the hippocampus and then is stored across the far reaches of each person’s neocortex, that information degrades, merges with other memories, and even takes on the hue of the emotional state through which it is recalled at a later date. 
Physical records of memories (i.e., pictures and videos) can serve to further mess with our ability to recollect as memories of viewing these images can replace and/or misinform the original recollections of the experience. 
It follows then that memory is fallible, unreliable, and stricken with imperfections that can frustratingly mislead a person seeking unadulterated truths in their mind’s eye.
On the bright side, the fact that our memories are so malleable means we can write our own histories and find our own iconic recollections. When it comes to memories, less can be more; the fewer the records, the more power each memory possesses and the more freedom we possess to reinterpret it any way we please.
Escape from “Special, Melissa Lasko-Gross’ semi-autobiographical recounting of a jarring childhood and adolescence, transcends the crushing nature of an over-remembered life.
The heroine of the piece, “Melissa, is presented as a self-reflective and temper-prone girl who wears her bleeding heart on her sleeve. Rather than reading like a diary or journal, the graphic novel has the feel of a young women re-experiencing her various childhood recollections through the emotional ups and downs of her later life.
She seems to openly embrace her memories not as a coherent narrative but rather as a random assortment of parts that can be rearranged to tell whatever story she pleases.
The presentation of Lasko-Gross’s story in a graphic form allows her to fashion a chronicle disconnected from the narrative constraints of a traditional novel.

She illustrates her story in blacks, whites and grays, draining them of color as if to show them as they appear in her head today rather than as they actually occurred. The graphic novel format also allows her to present the story without references to chronology, as there are few dates to index the narrative. The actual order of events, just as in our memories, could be entirely fabricated.
The images tell of a recounting of memories rather than experiences, which seem to empower Lasko-Gross to take the complexly emotional moments of her life and turn them into universal icons of angst, resistance, and hardship.
The story she tells through her memories is dark and compelling. 
The narrative begins with her earliest memory’€a short and intense recollection of a moment in which Melissa dreamed that her real mother was an impostor. Lasko-Gross presents herself as scared, distraught and crushed. Her facial expressions are hyperbolically deranged as if there is no barrier between her inner emotions and her outer countenance’€a method she uses again and again in the novel to present her feelings as paramount in how the moment is remembered. 
This theme of disconnection is revisited in the story as Melissa moves from relationship to relationship and school to school, with few permanent fixtures and support structures. She questions the intentions of her teachers, screams in the face of authority, and breaks down when she is unable to deeply share herself with her peers.
There is seemingly no escape for Melissa from being an outsider, a fact she seems to simultaneously embrace and detest.  When she realizes that she “can use her words to manipulate other students, she starts to see her overactive mind as capable of great feats of cunning and also as a constant burden that gets her into trouble.
The only refuge for her seems to be her ability to visually exaggerate and derange her experiences so that every moment of her life seems to be part of a broader subconscious struggle for a sense of belonging and freedom. 
These images Lasko-Gross draws are presented right next to the more grounded version of her past, further obscuring the boundary between memory and history, fictional and non-fictional narrative.
For children growing up today, the decision to fabricate their own personal mythology as Miss Lasko-Gross does will be very difficult to defend. Almost every aspect of childhood can be (and is) captured, indexed and stored. The increasing inexpensiveness of digital media allows for any child or parent to capture an experience, and then file it away into permanent storage as data. Through this process, the beautiful fallibility of memory and the personal story telling such subjective recollections allow for are being overwhelmed. 
A young adult attempting to write their autobiography will have to contend with terabytes of data (mis)informing their every recollection and (mis)guiding them toward publishing what they believe is the an objective reading of their reconstructed past. 
Hopefully future authors in the vein of Lasko-Gross will not be suffocated by the weight of their over-documented past.
Lasko-Gross’ willingness to re-imagine her own past as a means to bring life to her narrative demonstrates the need to escape the past in order to keep living, for “with an excess of history man ceases again, and without the cloak of the unhistorical he would never have begun to dare to begin (Nietzsche, 1874). The narrative presented in Escape from Special is misremembered and absolutely reliant on a particular mind’s recollections to exist. 
It’s a picture of someone’s memory unadulterated.
It’s a type of story telling that compels the reader to think of their own past and the purpose of memory for the living’€

even if those recollections are painful, awkward, and forever flawed.

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URL to article: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/10/20/escape-from-%e2%80%9cspecial%e2%80%9d-miss-lasko-gross/

URLs in this post:

[1] Escape from “Special” Miss Lasko-Gross: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/10/20/3311/

[2] Rose reviews La Vie En Rose: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2008/03/19/rose-reviews-la-vie-en-rose/

[3] What I carry to the movies: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2008/11/26/what-i-carry-to-the-movies/

[4] Movie Review: X-Men Origins: Wolverine: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/05/13/movie-review-x-men-origins-wolverine/

[5] Student-run language center: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/09/30/student-run-language-center/

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