Notes from a Sickbed


Product Details

Graphic Universe (Tm)
Publish Date
6.1 X 9.1 X 0.8 inches | 1.05 pounds
Library Binding

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About the Author

Tessa Brunton is an cartoonist and author based in Santa Cruz, California. Her first comic book Passage was nominated for two Ignatz Awards: Outstanding Comic and Promising New Talent. Her mini-comic Second Banana is a Best American Comics 2014 notable comic. Her comics have appeared in Bitch Magazine, Maisonneuve Magazine, The Comics Journal, and many anthologies.


"In imaginative, often funny autobiographical vignettes, a comics creator depicts life with myalgic encephalomyelitis, or chronic fatigue syndrome.
Years before she's diagnosed with ME, Brunton is forced to take to her couch, miserable and in pain. The vignettes take place over several years, as readers see Brunton, who reads White, go through multiple hair colors and styles. Some episodes are fully realistic depictions of a creative young woman learning to live with a life-altering illness, and others are fantastic visions of her imagined worlds. Lovingly detailed, black-and-white cartoons of idealized mobile beds and homes include a snail shell, a giant cake, and a multipage spread of a tower home with a bed flume, talking goats, and a room dedicated to Halloween costumes. Brunton rarely offers medicalizing details about the symptoms she experiences, with only brief mentions of headaches, fevers, and brain fog. Instead, she focuses on some of the infuriating aspects of ME, including its unpredictability, post-exertional malaise, and the exhausting grind of despair and grief. She falls for a few wellness scams and is gaslit by labor-intensive diets that can't possibly be implemented by anyone who needs their claimed benefits. The final comic ends with Brunton, in bed long enough for her hair to grow, pondering the fantasy and science-fiction comics she wants the energy to write. This honest work depicts a bleak but not comfortless world familiar to many readers with chronic illness and disability.
Painfully real."--starred, Kirkus Reviews

-- (8/15/2022 12:00:00 AM)

Brunton's graphic memoir powerfully reveals the frustration and sadness that comes with chronic illness. It took Brunton six years to get diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, which she shows with an illustrated timeline of her lying down on various couches. After the diagnosis, there are still many other problems to address, like symptom management, health insurance, and daily life adjustments. From there, Brunton goes on to explain how different it is to be confined to a sickbed for a long period of time than to be sick for a few days. Through frank explanations of her physical state and memories, as well as a dreamlike sequence exploring how she could float through the world as a ghost of sickness, Brunton's art is distinct and emotionally evocative. The panels are constantly crowded, showing the mess that can build up around a sickbed while you're stuck waiting on a diagnosis. The memoir achieves its mission to communicate to readers the isolation of chronic illness and fits well with memoirs like Hyberbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. -- Booklist

-- (11/1/2022 12:00:00 AM)

"In her graphic memoir, Brunton recounts her early experiences with myalgic encephalomyelitis, more commonly known as chronic fatigue syndrome. Years before receiving an official diagnosis, Brunton spends a significant amount of time at home in extreme pain, with intense exhaustion. One of the most vexing parts of the illness, Brunton recalls, is the unpredictability; she finds it impossible to tell when symptoms will set in as well as how long it will take to recover. Some of the memories shared by Brunton focus on her day-to-day attempts to cope with and learn about her chronic illness, while other sections are lively imaginings, such as visualizing herself haunting noisy neighbors and brainstorming the best kind of mobile bed, to name a few. Brunton's tone is often humorous, with each spread filled with highly detailed black-and-white illustrations. The memoir's final spreads depict Brunton ruminating over which comic she wishes to create. VERDICT An incredibly authentic and honest look at life with a chronic illness. Recommended for purchase for all collections."--School Library Journal

-- (11/1/2022 12:00:00 AM)

"Brunton (Passage) alternates whip-smart humor with searing emotional honesty in this graphic novel memoir about living with myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome. Over a five-year period, Brunton's condition worsens, forcing her to stop working, avoid social gatherings, and curtail her artistic ambitions. Told through a series of vignettes and infused with a fanciful tone--items often magically appear at Brunton's bedside, including a book titled Mr. Dead's Guide to Scaring the Living, which she uses to imagine herself as a ghost pestering loud neighbors--Brunton casts her situation in a wryly funny light without shying away from feelings of frustration, anger, and despair. Despite misgivings about potential health effects, she begins work on a graphic novel and makes plans to visit Disneyland for research, a seemingly impossible endeavor that Brunton is adamant to see through. Loose b&w line art renders busy, intensely detailed indoor settings that closely mirror the creator's feelings and mood at each life stage. Brunton's varying hair lengths denote the passage of time as she details her experiences with unpredictable symptoms, misdiagnoses, and a fierce pursuit of her wants, making for a revelatory look into one person's experience managing a chronic condition."--Publishers Weekly

-- (10/10/2022 12:00:00 AM)

"Tessa Brunton shares her experiences living with myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, in her graphic memoir Notes from a Sickbed.

Myalgic encephalomyelitis is a little-understood disease that produces muscle pain and fatigue, and thus limits physical activity. There's no cure and little in the way of treatment. There's no cure and little in the way of treatment. Brunton, who was once in the throes of the illness, shows how she coped with a life of isolation, restricted activity, and constant trade-offs between physical exertion and the inevitable consequences that followed. The book includes heartbreaking observations, as when Brunton tells her mother she feels she's living 'in a little boat now, and it's sinking. / And all I can do is bail it out.'

Although there are references to medical visits and experiments with health powders and supplements, the book isn't so much about medical treatment as it is about the illness's psychological impact. A rich imagination and sense of humor help Brunton to cope with her condition. Her fun, inventive art contributes to and enhances her narrative well. When Brunton reveals a fantasy of haunting the living like a ghost, for example, a fake publication offers advice on 'The freakiest footsteps for midnight haunting!' A more casual notes page mentions the three-year-old neighbor nicknamed 'Satan's mallet.' Detailed drawings reveal dream houses and imaginary bedmobiles, as well as Brunton's daily struggles.

Notes from a Sickbed is a sympathetic, inspiring graphic memoir account of grappling with an illness."--Foreword Reviews

-- (9/1/2022 12:00:00 AM)

"Being stuck at home on the couch with an endless illness should be an absolute nightmare, but somewhere between Tessa's unruly imagination and her dark sense of humor, she's created a surprisingly exciting, funny, and strangely uplifting world. A truly unique and wonderful book." --Julia Wertz, author-artist, Tenements, Towers & Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City

-- (5/1/2022 12:00:00 AM)

"Tessa's intimate, surreal, and impeccably composed diary comics invite you in and wrap around you like a warm quilt. Her work is a soothing balm for the chronic frustrations of living in a human body." --Lisa Hanawalt, creator of Tuca & Bertie

-- (5/1/2022 12:00:00 AM)

"This book is a gorgeous and necessary addition to the canon of graphic medicine." --Nicole Georges, author-artist, Calling Dr. Laura: A Graphic Memoir

-- (5/1/2022 12:00:00 AM)

"Tessa Brunton generously shares with us not only her struggle of living with a chronic, little-understood disease, but also her go-to skills for coping: a sharp wit and a rich, fabulously intricate inner life. And her drawings are gorgeous!" --Rob Kirby, author-artist, Marry Me a Little

-- (5/1/2022 12:00:00 AM)