Publisher: Titan Comics
Written and illustrated by: Yvon Roy
Release Date: 25th May 2021
As we near the end of Autism Acceptance Month, I’m taking a look at Little Victories by Canadian cartoonist Yvon Roy, a heartbreaking, humorous and ultimately uplifting look into life as the parent of a child with autism. Translated from its original French, the graphic novel – which won the Disability Fund & Society Award for Best Biography – is available in English for the first time next month, courtesy of Titan’s Statix Press imprint.
Roy and his wife had big dreams for their son, but when he was diagnosed with autism, Roy’s initial heartbreak and the resulting pressure unfortunately lead to the pair divorcing. Both parents continue to do their part to raise their son as best they can, but Roy’s frustration with the “car manual” type guidance he is given leads him to try out some new and creative ways to engage with and develop his son.
What’s perhaps most interesting about Little Victories is the the sheer honesty Roy (curiously named “Mark” here) displays throughout, from his initial anger and frustration following the diagnosis to the difficulties and struggles both he and his son Oliver go through on a daily basis. Often in these kinds of books there can be a tendency to paint everything as rosy and relentlessly positive, which can make a lot of parents feel like the whirlwind of challenging emotions they’re naturally feeling are somehow wrong, so it’s definitely refreshing to see a far more honest take here.
In addition to the moving honesty, Roy shows some real skill as a cartoonist, blending subtle facial expressions with powerful visual metaphor throughout the course of these 152 pages. The black and white style is relaxed and flows smoothly, letting the story and dialogue take center stage, and there are some genuinely poignant artistic flourishes along the way, such as the “breaking down the walls” page above.
In my opinion, some of the language used here could perhaps be viewed as a little problematic, with Mark’s desire to ‘fix’ his son and battle to ‘overcome’ his ASD symptoms rather than learning to live with them. That said, Mark’s ultimate acceptance and the tender, caring bond between the pair is certainly something to behold, and the way he always challenges his son and pushes him makes for some genuinely moving moments.
One of my minor niggles about the book was the fact that, in terms of the translation, there are a few small typos and some occasionally awkward phrasing along the way, but nothing that really impacts the flow in any significant way.
At the end of the day, it’s impossible to not become completely and utterly invested in Oliver’s development throughout the course of this graphic novel. Watching him grow, learn and adapt to the often confusing world around him is fascinating to see, and as someone with only a passing knowledge of what it’s like living with autism, this was certainly an eye-opening read for me.
A fascinating and moving snapshot of a relationship between father and son, this is a book which overcomes some potentially problematic moments to earn every bit of the praise being heaped onto it.