Finishing Daddy’s Girl by Debbie Drechsler pushed my breath right out of me. I had been holding it without noticing. A long time ago I also read this book and wasn’t sure how I felt about it, but now, now, I really got it.
The book is a series of short comics about sexual abuse and its repercussions told from the perspective girls from about eight to 16. I reread the 1995 version in about an hour, curled into an awkward position on an awkward sofa in Vermont. I pored over Drechsler’s details, her patterned everything, her wide-eyed characters. (Tessa Brunton’s work actually reminds me a lot of Drechsler’s in this book, a connection that jumped up and slapped me during this reread). The art feels unrestrained and almost joyous in the face of the subject matter, and that is one of the things that gives this book so much power.
Think of all the women and men you know that have been trespassed against, who’ve had sex used as a weapon against them, who have had part of themselves stolen by friends, relatives and strangers. Daddy’s Girl captures, in very few pages, the banal brutality of abuse and the bald-faced ugliness of a world that creates a safe place for abusers. While it is difficult to get the graphic actions of the father character out of your mind, it is the subtle attacks on the personality of the main characters by mother/friend characters that have really stuck with me. With simple, natural dialogue, Drechsler really gets at the ability to sense and exploit weakness that emotional abusers have and allows the reader to draw conclusions about why.
If you are lucky, this book simply makes you think of every time you kept your mouth shut when you knew something terrible was going on and pushes those moments in front of your face as a warning and a call to do better. It is a difficult read. It is a survival story and we need it.
*Photo from random goodreads user