Kimiko Does Cancer, written by Kimiko Tobimatsu and illustrated by Keet Geniza, is a brief yet excellently framed memoir told in graphic novel format.
When this memoir begins, author Kimiko is twenty-five and diagnosed with breast cancer. As a lawyer beginning her career, Kimiko attempts to work through her treatments and surgeries, not wanting to slow down and take the necessary time to emotionally and physically recover. The issues arising between her and her girlfriend are put on pause while she endures many changes brought on by cancer, including the urgent decision to freeze her eggs, induced menopause, and many additional side effects. Doctor to doctor, information surrounding cancer and recommended decisions varies greatly, and no matter how much research she and her mother prepare, the path is nonetheless confusing.
Broken into four sections and expertly portrayed in both its prose and visual elements, Kimiko Does Cancer briefly yet succinctly details Kimiko’s experience as a mixed-race, queer, young Canadian navigating her budding career, family dynamics, friendships, romantic relationships, and her sense of self all while existing with cancer and its after-effects.
Honest and vulnerable while not being overly exploitative, Kimiko opens up about her challenges being emotionally available with loved ones, and how despite all she faced, she still felt internal resistance in asking for help. Even after the cancer is removed, many physical effects, including heat flashes, continue to alter her body’s conditions, and Kimiko questions whether she can consider herself a part of the disability community because of this.
In expert tandem with Kimiko’s concise and strong narrative, illustrater Keet wonderfully expresses Kimiko’s story with her black-and-white graphic renderings. Her style is charming and accessible, and stylistically captures the essence of Kimiko’s appearance and autobiographical accounts.
This is one of the strongest graphic memoirs I’ve read! It is reflective, mature, and genuine, without over-indulging or missing key elements. I highly recommend this!
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