by MILEN MEHARI
Children and the elderly. These are two demographics that will always get me emotional. They can literally be doing anything, smiling, frowning, laughing, sneezing, sleeping, thinking, and I will find a reason to be emotionally invested and sensitive to them.
One of the books we read in class Ghosts (Telgemeier 2016), was so aggressive in its hold on my heart, truly, I did not know what to do. First of all, one of the main characters, Maya, is a child diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a disorder with no cure. So already my anxiety is on high as I turn from one page to another. I think to myself, this book is geared towards young readers so obviously there must be a happy end, Maya will not die, because that would just be entirely too much. But then again, what if the author just goes against the grain and tries to use this work as an opportunity to teach the youth about the looming yet natural nature of death. So I had to be diligent, I had tissues and a funny Youtube video on hand, just in case things went left and I needed to change the mood.
Lucky for most of the book I was keeping my composure. Then, the elderly and the youth came together in a scene.
When Cat, Maya’s sister, reluctantly goes to the Day of the Dead party, one of the only things keeping her going is that she will find here grandmother amongst the dead that have come out for the night. So naturally, when she see an elderly women sitting by herself she thinks its her grandma, declaring, “Oh my gosh! Abuela? Is that really you?” (191) Unfortunately it wasn’t, but the saddest part about that conversation is when the woman responds, “No tengo familia,” meaning, I have no family (192). Then Maya just left the old lady.
All I could think was, woooooooooow Telgemeier, why are you playing with our feelings. Having seen how joyous and vibrant the older woman go when Maya began to speak to her, the contrast of her face as Maya was leaving, was so poignant.
And to be honest I thought this was the end of that interaction, maybe Telgemeier was preparing us to handle a greater lose and disappointment.
But then something beautiful happens. Maya witnesses a delightful interaction between a living and dead person, and she is moved to buy soda, one for herself and one for the woman. Even in the midst of sadness, joy can be found.
Telgemeier, Raina. Ghost. Graphix, 2016.