Author: Daniele Rossi
Publish Date: january 31, 2023
Publisher: Self Published (Mischief, Mayhem and Mirth)
Catalog ID: ISBN: 978-0992163204
Author website: http://stutteringiscool.com/
by Kevin Wolf
The current president of the United State, Joseph “Joe” R. Biden, was bullied in his childhood because he stuttered; and leading up to the 2020 presidential election, there were many articles about that early bullying. For example, The Atlantic in their January/February 2020 issue included an article—which I recommend—by John Hendrickson called “What Joe Biden Can’t Bring Himself to Say: His verbal stumbles have voters worried about his mental fitness. Maybe they’d be more understanding if they knew he’s fighting a stutter.” The article’s author is also a person who stutters; he writes, “… I stutter, far worse than Biden …”
Hendrickson: I’ve only … told a few people I’m … d-doing this piece. Every time I … describe it, I get … caught on the w-word-uh stuh-tuh-tuh-tutter.”
Biden: So did I … It doesn’t … can’t define who you are.”
Also from this article: “Stuttering is a neurological disorder that affects roughly 70 million people … about 3 million … in the United States. … Research suggests that no more than a quarter of people who still stutter at [age] 10 will completely rid themselves of the affliction as adults.” Stuttering has nothing to do with intelligence, anxiousness, fear, or whether a person knows the word they want to say, it’s often struggling to get past specific sounds (e.g., H-, S-, J-, or other sounds/letters) in the word one is attempting to say; and perhaps getting anxious because you know what you want to say, but you’re having trouble getting it out (called blocking) or repeating the same sound over and over. One might learn and practice solutions, but they don’t always work or might be forgotten from anxiety.
For a person who stutters, autonomous and regular phone communication might even be more frustrating than face-to-face. This graphic work demands empathy. I’m thinking to truly understand, you have to have lived with, been closely connected to, or have a strong emotional sympathy toward having difficulty getting some words past your lips. I highly recommend the graphic medicine work Franky Banky in Tales of Mischief, Mayhem and Mirth (The Tales for short) by Daniele Rossi for its humor, empathic lessons for non-stuttering persons, and variety among person’s who stutter.
In this black and white anthropomorphic work, Franky Banky is a fox who goes on many adventures. Early on he fears getting a phone call, because then he has to speak and he has trouble with H’s, so saying “H-H-H-H-H-H-H-H-H-H-H-H-H-H-H-H [Hello]” is almost insurmountable. He asks himself, “Why couldn’t they have texted? [page 7].” Franky distracts his response by stomping his foot causing pain and the word he wants to say comes out. Franky has a full life with baking, as an artist with oil paints, recycler, amateur astronomer, space alien battler among other activities … did I mention this is also a fictional work with very real lessons? At some points the time spent stuttering is emphasized by showing the same sound over 12 or more panels, forcing the reader to have patience.
We learn about speech-language pathologist (SLP), the preferred name over speech therapist. According to University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences, “SLPs are licensed communication experts” and can help with speaking, fluency, social communication, voice and vocal hygiene, feeding and swallowing, and literacy, among other skills. In Canada, where the author is from, the SLP’s license is called a Certificate of Clinical Competence (3 Cs). [Correction: This license applies in the United States, as well, and is administered by the American Speech-Language Association (ASHA)]
The Tales is filled with metaphors, such as a (literal) tiger that pounces when struggling with speech is most acute. But if you get control back you can unleash the tiger (named Ti-Ger) and it will purr. “When you face stuttering, it will be so much easier to talk than when you try to turn your back on it. ” Getting your desires across will take patience from others and explaining your difficulties should help reinforce the patience and understanding. Ti-Ger also enjoys mischief, such as unrolling toilet paper and spreading it all over town.
All the stories in The Tales are connected. Other stories include a hot air balloon race (can Franky win when it seems everyone else has tricks to speed up their balloon while Franky has no control?), getting carried away with a cliché-ridden speech, traveling a multiple-page maze to attend a rock concert, a me-too discussion Franky has with another creature that stutters, and a lesson for SLPs and everyone else … giving control to your patients by simply asking “What do you want me to do when you stutter …?” There’s also a very funny story over several chapters about space aliens.
The Tales concludes with very worthwhile information covering “Facts about stuttering,” “How to talk to someone who stutters,” and “Franky Banky’s advice for kids (and grown-ups) who stutter” … oh … and the solution to the maze.