Lucy Knisley on Kid Gloves

h1 September 11th, 2019 by jules


Author and comics artist Lucy Knisley has written (and drawn) candidly about many stages of her life — her childhood as the daughter of a chef and gourmet (Relish, published in 2012); her trip abroad to Europe/Scandinavia as a single woman (An Age of License: A Travelogue, published in 2014); her marriage to her partner (Something New: Tales From a Makeshift Bride, published in 2016); and more. And I’m there, so totally there, for these comics memoirs; I hope she continues to document every stage of her life. (As someone there now myself, I’ll be eager to read her take on middle age’hood.)

Her newest book — Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos (First Second), released in February of this year — chronicles her pregnancy and the birth of her son. Knisley is someone who knew, since childhood, that she wanted to be a mother. Here, she describes with a frank and refreshing honesty her personal journey — the fertility problems she faced when trying to conceive; her multiple miscarriages; the nine months of pregnancy, including her frustration in feeling unheard by medical professionals; and the birth itself. All are marked by both joy and terror; severe eclampsia makes for a traumatic birth experience. Throughout the book, Knisley weaves in facts about how pregnancy has been regarded throughout history. At the New York Times, Hillary L. Chute writes, “Knisley deploys the diagrammatic features of comics to break down medical and cultural contexts around miscarriage, infertility and pregnancy, along with their symptoms, and she illustrates myths as well as facts, letting them visually stack up against one another. These didactic interludes, often marked off as separate chapters, provide a charming, informative guide ….

I talked with Knisley via email about this new memoir, what her book tour has been like, and what’s next on her plate. …



Jules: Was it easy for you to recall all the details of your pregnancy and birth? (Your story is so detailed, that is, yet a lot of women talk about forgetting the details of the pain of childbirth.) Did you keep journals during that time?

Lucy: I always keep sketchbooks that function as a way to keep track of how I’m feeling and what I’m going through, but I was such a preeclamptic mess at the end of pregnancy and for my kid’s birth that I barely remembered much of it. Fortunately, my partner is a diligent note-taker, and I stole his notes from my hospital stay to piece together what I didn’t remember.

Jules: I love your honesty, how you don’t shy from the scarier parts of your pregnancy in this memoir. Did you know right away that you wanted this to be no-holds-barred? Did you, say, get pushback from any early readers or editors?

Lucy: I really thought I’d just be writing a sort-of typical “my pregnancy” story. When I started to realize that my pregnancy (and in fact, nobody’s) was anything but typical, I began to do more research into reproductive history and science. It’s always been an interest of mine, but now that I was experiencing it, so much more of this world became real and infuriating. I’m very lucky — I’m white, have good health insurance, and was able to give birth in a top hospital in a first-world country. And I almost died from medical neglect and ignorance! Had I not been any one of those things, I likely would have died, and I needed to understand why that still happens after all this time people have been reproducing.



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Jules: I love that inclusion of the medical and social context around pregnancy throughout history. What was your research like?

Lucy: I’ve always been fascinated by this stuff. I used to pore over my mom’s pregnancy books as a kid. I used to volunteer with Planned Parenthood for teen peer outreach. It’s something I’ve always been passionate about, so finding a way to combine it with my passion for comics was both exciting and possibly a little maddening. I read a lot about the history and science that made me more astonished and furious about my own traumatic experience, recently lived. It was a little like an intensive exposure therapy year.

Jules: I saw you on your book tour where you mentioned that you stopped talking about the book on the tour (and instead starting drawing for folks in attendance). You had said that some women who heard your story started crying. Can you talk about why? I assume that your experience with doctors dismissing your pain during pregnancy was maybe all too real for them?



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Lucy: To begin with, I think all humans are programmed with a great deal of sensitivity when it comes to childbirth and new babies. We respond to birth with heightened emotions. Which is good! We should! It’s the origin of our species and our selves, the pain of our parents! But so many people have experienced trauma surrounding birth, whether in themselves or a loved one, not to mention infant loss and miscarriage. Talking about these things is important, and I do so unabashedly in my book, but as someone who prefers to process things in their own time, I didn’t feel it was right that I should force people who came to connect with me through my work into processing their own trauma by dragging it out in depth. I had a lot of wonderful interactions with people while I drew them — people who told me their own experiences and how they connected with mine — and I think it was lovely and healing for all parties. But standing in front of a room full of people, not knowing where they are coming from with this stuff, and trotting out my own story to their horror was not the vibe I wanted for my chill evening book events!

Jules: What’s next for you? My family and I loooove your cat comics on social media. Is it true you might do a whole book about Linney? (Also, my condolences. Since I sent these questions, Linney has passed from this world. Woe!)



Lucy: Thank you! I love my Linney comics. I’m gonna make more, once I recover from my loss. I have a book coming out next February that collects all my comics about the newborn days, called Go to Sleep (I Miss You). I’m also working on another picture book for kids, based on Linney and my son going on an adventure together, and a middle-grade book series about step-sisters finding their place in their new family dynamic.



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KID GLOVES: NINE MONTHS OF CAREFUL CHAOS. copyright © 2019 by Lucy Knisley. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, First Second, New York.

Photo of Lucy Knisley posted by permission of First Second.

One comment to “Lucy Knisley on Kid Gloves

  1. I follow this cartoonist on social media, and I too am very sad about her cat! And I don’t even like cats much! I do think her artwork is charming and her candidness about the whole wild and messy journey towards parenthood will do such work toward helping some new families stay same. Teen Me would have been fascinated.

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