Author: Alessandro Baronciani (translated from Italian by Carla Roncalli Di Montorio)
Publish Date: December 2022
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Catalog ID: ISBN: 978-1506726731
Author website: https://baopublishing.it/autori/alessandro-baronciani/
by Soph Myers-Kelley
Alessandro Baronciani, an Italian author, originally published this book with Bao Publishing in 2020 (and in Italian). However, Dark Horse Publishing is the first to release it in English. The book does not appear to be a memoir, but an original story about a young woman suffering an undiagnosed illness and seeking diagnosis. Her journey towards healing and understanding is the primary focus of this book.
Baronciani’s art is the highlight of this art piece for me. Most graphic medicine books utilize varying blacks, whites, and greys for the majority of their art. Some will use choice colors to highlight a mood or scene, or some with higher budgets will use color for most or all of their story. This book does something unique; It’s entitled When Everything Turned Blue, so it literally uses blue for ALL the lining, coloring, and shading. No blacks. No whites. Just blue. Everything, Blue.
As a result, you get some beautiful blue pieces of art- a gorgeous still life of a subway station, a picturesque cliffside scene, a close-up of the protagonist crying in . The pieces could easily be hung up on someone’s living room wall. The story begins with the main character scuba diving in the ocean (a dream), a delightful beginning to a blue-themed book, and it becomes an important visual metaphor as we get to know our female protagonist, Chiara.
Chiara had a friend from university who died unexpectedly (to her) of an unspecified incurable illness. This traumatic memory of the loss of her friend, who seemed so vibrant and full of life and dreams, is one facet of her fear of terrible illness when she begins dealing with anxiety, heart palpitations, hot flashes, disassociation, and a feeling of passing out. Could it be her heart? Her lungs? Her brain? Many medical tests later, and a complication of slight bleeding when starting a new medication terrifies the protagonist. No significant answers occur and some (minor) harmful side effects from the medication do; she feels defeated and that she must recognize what truly may be the cause of her symptoms. In addition, she needs to deal with navigating a romantic relationship while going on this journey.
For me personally, having lived most of my life as a woman (until I found out I was trans), I found the depiction of Chiara as a woman experiencing what would ultimately be diagnosed as panic attacks somewhat lacking. She feels a bit flat, despite being someone who goes through tumultuous emotions and experiences as a character on a medical journey. I am a person driven by strong storylines, character development, and interpersonal relationships, and this book is more simplistic and art focused. This is not a bad thing, and many people will enjoy this book much more than I did. As someone who does not regularly experience panic attacks, perhaps I didn’t relate to this book as much as others might.
This short book can be read in one sitting if desired and would be great for a quick afternoon at a coffeeshop. If you aren’t familiar with panic attacks, anxiety, depression, the process of treating them, or the difficult medical journey of seeking clarity on (what is at first) a mystery illness, this book could be enlightening for you.
Soph Myers-Kelley is a medical librarian, herbalist, and activist living in North Carolina. They can be contacted at https://www.smyerskelley.com/ and followed at https://www.instagram.com/sophmyerskelley/