Author: Peter Dunlap-Shohl
Pages: 96 pages
Publish Date: October 2015
Publisher: Penn State University Press (part of their Graphic Medicine Series)
Catalog ID: ISBN: 978-0271071022
Where to buy: https://bookshop.org/shop/graphicmedicine
Author website: https://comics-bd-universes.com/peter-dunlap-shohl/?s=03
Guest Review by Jane Burns
When you read Peter Dunlop Shohl’s bio you just know anything he is involved in is going to be interesting. He describes himself as an obscure cartoonist who lives far, far away (Alaska!). His career as a cartoonist was primarily with the Anchorage Daily News. My Degeneration: A Journey Through Parkinson’s is his first graphic novel. Peter is the winner of the Alaska Press Club 1st Amendment Award.
My Degeneration is one of those books that never really leaves you. It was in my early reading pile when I first discovered Graphic Medicine and the impression it made on me endures. The book uses the comic format to tell this personal compelling story. The use of the comic style offers readers the views of what is happening in the story but also what is happening in the characters’ minds. This is very effective as there are literally demons that come to life and their presence is palpable.
I knew very little about Parkinson’s disease before reading this book and this book really helped me to understand the physical and emotional implications of experiencing this disease. Since then I have discovered that there is a great deal of published research and memoirs about people’s experiences with Parkinson’s. But My Degeneration is different. Almost immediately the despair of the patient unfolds, the absolute heartbreak of not being able to care for himself, to do the ordinary basic things that help us navigate through life. This is balanced by the patients plan to commit suicide by bear! This plan in parts is very funny and even bizarre but it is a coping mechanism… the patients “get out plan, if things get too much or too painful.” (p.3)
The illustrations are beautiful and engaging with links to familiar and new literary spaces that makes this a book you just don’t want to put down. The brilliant interactions with medical practitioners really illuminate the way the communication process can breakdown and ways that it can be improved.
The understanding of what Parkinson’s disease is enhanced by using the subject’s vocabulary and illustrated explanations of symptoms and treatments.
Who is this book for? In the first instance it will be invaluable to patients, their families and carers, medical professionals and especially neurologists will find this book informative and encouraging. It would also be a recommended read for those interested in personal memoirs and graphic medicine.
/ Jane Burns is an Academic Manager in Ireland who is currently pursuing a PhD in Education at Dublin City University researching the Role of Graphic Medicine. @JMBurns99