Warming up to “Blankets” on a Chilly Day

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Craig Thompson’s “Blankets” is one of the best books I’ve picked up in a long time. Thompson’s black and white images are beautiful in their clarity and detail. I love the lack of any colour in the images. I feel as though colour would have taken away from the telling of Thompson’s story. Coloured ink would detract from truthful depiction of his memories. Through the use of black and white, Thompson tells his story without embellishment. I read the entirety of this graphic novel in a day, unable to put down its beautifully illustrated pages. Through his images, Thompson tells the story of his movement from childhood into adolescence and young adulthood and the struggles of being an outcast in both his secular and religious lives. 

“Blankets” is a story that most people will be able to connect with. We all feel like the outsider at some point in our lives. We all struggle to fit in or to find connections with others who feel as we do. Thompson shows through his protagonist, the difficulties of finding oneself and of learning to be an individual. Thompson’s character struggles especially because of his extremely devout Christian parents, teachers, and friends who disapprove of his art: art as a career, art as self-expression, art as a way to praise God. It is difficult for him to consolidate his love of drawing and the lack of support from the authority figures in his life. I’m sure we can all relate to this in one way or another.

Thompson’s character faces sexual awakening, abuse, rejection, and also first love, brotherly connection, and self-discovery. His relationships, both familial and romantic, are often governed by his understanding of Christianity and he often conceptualizes his actions in relation to his/his parents’ religion. Having grown up in the Catholic church and attending Catholic elementary and high school, I felt connected with Thompson’s story: the second guessing of one’s actions, the attempt to live as one is told is right. Perhaps that’s why I enjoyed this story so much. I felt like I was reading my own story in a way. Ultimately, Thompson’s character leaves the church and finds happiness and sustainability in his art.

One of my favourite images in the entire book shows a teenage Thompson kneeling on the ground with the drawings of his childhood exploding from his mouth into the sky above him. It is accompanied by the discussion that although his drawing was a form of escapism for him throughout his childhood, no matter how much he desires to forget the past, those drawings that once provided relief are now what haunt him. The escape has become the inescapable. This image really resonated with me. 

This graphic novel is definitely being added to my “to read again” list. It’s telling of the struggles of adolescence is touching and stark. It is straightforward and truthful. I would recommend it to anyone, whether you love graphic novels or not, whether you’re religious or not. We’ve all experienced the emotions and the struggles that Thompson demonstrates in his drawings and with this medium of images, Thompson shares a breathtaking tale. 

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