Matthew Lickona's new graphic novel, "Alphonse," explores the abortion issue from a literary perspective. Jack Thornton recently interviewed Lickona about the novel and how he uses art to discuss a controversial topic.
Some literary works are nice and comfortable. You settle down with a blanket and a cup of tea and just lose yourself for a while. Others are more edgy and dark. They make you think about topics you prefer to avoid. They might challenge your preconceived notions and make you look at a sensitive topic from a different perspective.
“Alphonse” is one of the latter types.
Abortion is a topic that most consider too controversial to handle. It has become so polarizing and political that the human element is often lost in the tangled ideological battles. Matthew Lickona’s graphic novel, illustrated by Chris Gugliotti, tackles the abortion issue with grit, artistic integrity and courage, and focuses on the humanity at the center of the issue instead of the politics.
The story centers on Alphonse, a child whose heroine-addict mother attempts a late term abortion only to have a sentient, strong baby escape the attempt and flee the clinic with the help of a pro-life activist. The tension at the heart of the novel revolves around the reaction to the prenatal assault. It is a struggle between desire for revenge and the need for redemption with all the shadows and twisting emotions in between. The child at the center of this struggle is certainly unnerving, but ultimately human and that is why the story works.
“Alphonse” manages to tread the dangerous waters of the abortion issue in a thoughtful, compelling way that ought to appeal to everyone no matter what their political or religious views are. This is not a propaganda piece. Characters on both sides of the issue are portrayed realistically with both virtues and vices on display. Lickona’s ability to evoke sympathy for all the characters speaks to his insight and sensitivity to the human aspect of the issue. It’s difficult to not feel sympathy for the broken woman who attempts to abort the title character even if one disagrees with her decision. The pro-life activist, Ruth, who takes Alphonse in is on one hand heroic for her efforts to help the child, but some of her decisions and motivations are suspect. There are parallels between characters of both issues that highlight the difficult tensions inherent to the abortion issue...
Writer Heather King's life has always been an open book, but one chapter needed exploration. Kerry Trotter spoke to King recently about her new work "Poor Baby: A Child of the '60s Looks Back on Abortion" and the harrowing journey it recalls
At a time where so much of what is religious has become almost inextricably tied with the political, where social issues hinge more on legislation than any alteration in one’s moral code, when differing beliefs can sever relationships, Author Heather King tackles a most heated topic but manages to step clear away from the fray, and somehow, emerge with a clear message.
In her newest work, “Poor Baby: A Child of the '60s Looks Back on Abortion,” a self-reflective journey hovering somewhere between essay and autobiography, King tells the story of her three abortions and the decades of pain, anxiety and, ultimately, forgiveness that followed.
And also, a revelation surprising to her: she could be a mother to the children she aborted.
“I had suffered in silence as so many women do,” King, 59, said recently in a telephone interview. “It’s a story about death and resurrection. It’s a story about Christ.”
Suffering, she writes, is the “most radical, most incendiary, most taboo subject” in which we can engage, and nothing can alienate a person more than suggesting that our relationship to suffering can illuminate the meaning of life. Suffering is, for so many, born of sin but then reconciled through God, and King’s experience with it is no different. Her desire to grasp the truth meant getting right back into the muck, the mire of it all and coming out the other end...