Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green
28th Jan 2014
Katie Green’s début graphic novel Lighter Than My Shadow serves as an explanation for her decision to get into drawing. It takes in her lowest points, but also shows the impact art can have on healing.
Katie is a picky eater from a young age. She is very particular about the size of her mouthfuls, and has to keep different types of food separate on her plate. She develops a habit of hiding slices of toast in her bedroom.
This non-symbiotic relationship with food combines with a perfectionist streak when she reaches secondary school. Striving for the best grades and feeling out of control in many areas of her life, she starts to limit her food intake.
She convinces herself that one bar of chocolate will make her balloon out, and depicts herself with a disproportionately large belly whenever she gives in and eats. This is exacerbated when she replaces anorexia with a phase involving binging on food in bins.
The role of the adults in Katie’s life is integral to the story. Her childhood is generally happy and her family are supportive throughout the illness, while an abusive ‘healer’ takes horrible advantage of her vulnerable state. Medical professionals are framed by Katie’s feelings of reluctance about having to see them.
The art style is simple and effective, reminiscent of children’s book illustrations. But the innocence of the drawings is often contrasted by the subject matter, and by visual depictions of Katie’s downward spiral.The art style is simple and effective, reminiscent of children’s book illustrations. But the innocence of the drawings is often contrasted by the subject matter, and by visual depictions of Katie’s downward spiral.
Her shadow is shown with black fuzzy scribbles, as are her fears of what will happen when she loses control. If she caves in and eats a chocolate, a black cloud goes down her throat and into her stomach, showing how painfully aware she is of what she consumes.
The pages are mostly monochrome, with hints of green and purple at times. The line drawings are simple and effective. There are never too many details cluttering up the frame, making it an easy read – at least in terms of the visuals.
As well as being enlightening, the subject matter is obviously heavy-going. It makes for uncomfortable reading at times, especially when Katie’s thoughts become self-hating, even suicidal.
The choice of medium helps, as the pictures retain an element of lightheartedness even when Katie hits rock bottom. And thanks to the solace she finds in art, the story is ultimately uplifting.
It’s a big, heavy tome, but the style and the desire to learn more about Katie’s story mean it can be read in one sitting. Lighter Than My Shadow is a brave and inspiring story, beautifully told.