The plot, much like any other memoir centers around a passage in the author’s life. In this case, Engelberg’s diagnosis with cancer. The plot starts when Engelberg first discovers the possibility that she may have breast cancer. It then progresses through her dealing with it. What first starts out as a huge twist and problem in her life eventually leads to her finding solace in drawing and accepting things the way they are on the surface; being shallow.
This entire memoir was drawn in an effort to comfort Engelberg through her times of great stress. She spent roughly 30 minutes each day before work drawing “comics” which was then later published into a graphic memoir. The beginning and end of the memoir reference cancer patients and encourages them to not be distraught with their condition. She provides a method of relief for those who are suffering.
The main theme of this memoir was dealing with tragedy, specifically cancer. Some of the ways in which Engelberg does this is through humor. Much of the humor used throughout the graphic memoir is dark humor. Engelberg pokes fun and makes seemingly hopeless and stressful situations seem entertaining and even funny. There are even a few panels throughout the graphic memoir that are aimed specifically at providing sound advice for those coping with traumatic experiences.
Engelberg captures her mental thoughts in her drawings. She makes many mentions that she over analyzed things and this could not be more apparent in her drawings. She draws many scenes where one event repeats itself in many different scenarios and shows the results of how she thinks each would pan out if they were to actually happen. Aside from this, Engelberg infuses a humorous tone to her memoir where she often times over-exaggerates events or pokes fun at otherwise hopeless situations.
The title that Engelberg chose was very appropriate and I believe to be very significant. The title itself is very blunt and gets straight to the point. Cancer made Engelberg a shallower person, which is exactly what the title tells the reader. The book itself goes to further explain how cancer does this.
During the time in which Engelberg was drawing/writing her graphic memoir, she was greatly influenced by those around her. She makes specific mention that she had many awkward run ins with acquaintances and strangers. She was unsure how to break the news to them and was even more unsure how to react to their reactions.
Engelberganaylzed in depth every little thing she and those around her did. In doing so, she discovered that many things that people do were meaningless. She soon discovers the superficial world we live in where people act the way society wants them to act. One specific example is when Engelberg bumps into an acquaintence she barely knows and he instantly feels deep pity and sympathy for her.
One scene which I thought was outstanding was when Engelberg visits the doctor for a checkup. She makes it perfectly clear that she feels extreme discomfort and is very worried about the situation. Even still, Engelberg was able to make light of such a situation by instilling humor into it. She does so specifically by exaggerating the fact that the doctor was like a mechanic on a creeper inspecting the underside of a car which was her breast.
There was no significant characterization in this graphic memoir as it primarily focuses and revolves around Engelberg. As for her character however, it was made evident that the character was her through the many mentions and situations that she went through and the fact that her character was present in nearly every scene.
Miriam Engelberg’s only career aside from a drawer was a school teacher which she mentions she disliked.
Her most notable piece of work is most definitely her latest and final piece of work: Cancer made me a Shallower Person. Her greatest influence was definitely her diagnosis with breast cancer which made her finally pursue drawing. She received much support from her husband and son as well as family and friends. From her past works for non-profit organizations it is evident she is greatly moved by charitable giving as well.
Unfortunately, Engelberg did not receive any notable awards as her fame was very short lived due to her death.
There were no interviews that we could find, so in lieu of that we substituted her blog which provides much information about her.
Colour is a crucial part to any drawing. The lack of or the abundance of it can create a dramatic difference. It can be used strategically to tell a completely different story, or it can be used to draw attention to certain things. One common technique is to use bright attention grabbing colours on something in action in the foreground and dull colours in the background to draw even more attention.
Engelberg discovers she has breast cancer Coping with breast cancer begins Leads to depression and over-thinking everything Discovers many meaningless things in life Begins to accept breast cancer Resolution lies in being shallow
Coping mechanism for Miriam Engelberg Meant to help those who have cancer Explain why being shallow is good
Memoir: entire book written about Engelberg’s cancer Humor: many instances of crude humor Support: many panels drawn around advice
Memoir is structured around the stages of acceptance Memoir changes tone as it progresses ◦ From grim to bright towards the end
Analyses everyday things in depth Many scenes have a humorous tones ◦ Such scenes imagine scenarios in the literal sense
Title was very blunt ◦ Entire book dedicated to explaining it Resolution of book is to be shallow Draws attention to the book ◦ Being shallow is usually not a good thing Very accurately informs reader regarding content
Written in 30 minute intervals ◦ Engelberg only had 30 minutes each day before work Written as Engelberg was coping with cancer Work reflects the stages of coping: ◦ Denial ◦ Anger ◦ Acceptance
Memoir focused on people around Engelburg ◦ How to present such grim news to them Awkward confrontations with people
Society revolves around minding one’s business ◦ Leads to mindless fulfillment of tasks ◦ Engelberg jokes about many of these instances Superficial appearances lead to fake emotions ◦ People who barely knew Engelberg pitied her
Engelberg visited the doctors to check her breast ◦ Drew a mechanic creeper in place of a metaphor
Only long term character present was Engelberg No significance placed on other characters Engelberg’s character goes through dramatic changes ◦ At first fearful and not accepting cancer ◦ Later accepted fate with open arms see things on the surface; nothing more
Carefully placed drawings in lieu of metaphors ◦ Metaphors are impossible due to lack of text Many humorous depictions of otherwise serious events ◦ Humor used to lighten up the otherwise dark mood
I personally related very well with Miriam Engelburg, the author. Towards thebeginning of her graphic memoir at first sight of cancer she began over-analyzingevery little thing and through certain possible results she began to rationalizepessimistic endings. I too suffer from mild anxiety where I over analyze everythingand through this, break things down into smaller pieces. These smaller piecesoften times have a pessimistic nature to them which cause me grief. I along withEngelberg know how difficult it is to think of anything else in the face ofcatastrophic events such as cancer.
I related to the overall theme of the graphic memoir. My aunt was diagnosed withcancer several years ago and during that time it was incredibly difficult for her.After looking at Engelberg’s experience it made me realize both my aunt and herwent through a very similar experience. Both my aunt and her had troubleaccepting the fact that cancer was life-threatening to them. In order to cope myaunt sought comfort in family and friends and overall just doing what she wantedto do when she wanted to do them. Engelberg saw similar release in her drawingand eventually the publishing of her graphic memoir.
Engelberg, M. (2006). Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
Born January 7th, 1958 in Philadelphia Grew up in Lexington, Kentucky
Bachelor’s degree in Russian from Indiana University Masters in Philosophy of Education from Claremont Graduate School Masters in Theological Studies from Francisan school of Theology, Berkley Wrote/Performed Comic Monologues Wrote a play “Spit out your Gum: it’s school policy” Career as computer trainer at CompassPoint “Cancer made me a Shallower Person” published by HarperCollins
Greatly moved by her diagnosis with breast cancer Had a passion for writing ◦ Detested her job as a school teacher Pursued career in writing after cancer diagnosis
Her diagnosis of breast cancer People around her with cancer Reaction from those around her Her wanting to help others cope with cancer
Cancer made me a Shallower Person ◦ Most famous work Spit out Your Gum: It’s School Policy ◦ School play she wrote with a fellow teacher Planet 501(c)3 ◦ Published by non-profit Lack of awards and works due to short career
Career high: Cancer made me a Shallower Person ◦ Allowed her to cope with cancer Career low: school teacher ◦ Detested the job
http://miriamengelberg.livejournal.com/ ◦ Link to Engelberg’s personal blog
Reviews were great due to unique nature of work Supported by cancer support groups Very good reception from the general public
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miriam_Engelberg ◦ Miriam Engelberg. (2006, September 10). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miriam_Engelberg http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/entertainment&id=467415 3 ◦ Author Miriam Engelberg Dies [Newsgroup post]. (2006, October 18). Retrieved from Action News website: http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/entertainment&id=4674153 http://www.harpercollins.ca/authors/29252/Miriam_Engelberg/index.aspx?a uthorID=29252 ◦ HarperCollinsCanada.(n.d.). Miriam Engelberg. Retrieved from HarperCollinsCanada website: http://www.harpercollins.ca/authors/29252/Miriam_Engelberg/index.aspx?authorID=29252
Visual interpretation over literature Interpret a life story through drawings Allows one to see into author’s imagination
Exaggeration through pictures rather than words ◦ Drawings depict unreal scenes in lieu of literary devices Action to action ◦ progression in single subject Subject to Subject ◦ knowledge is required to make meaning Scene to scene ◦ transitions through time or distance Aspect to aspect ◦ transition in time causes change in aspect Non-Sequitur ◦ No relationship between scenes
Important to depict who the writer is ◦ There cannot be extreme exaggerations ◦ Graphic memoir must maintain fact and accuracy Distinct and recognizable traits ◦ Writer’s character is distinct and instantly recognizable
Action scenes focus on a figure ◦ Usually lack of background emphasizes this Time is “slowed” down ◦ Scene is drawn out through many panels Colour used to draw attention ◦ Often times the foreground is more colourful than background
Crucial part of a graphic memoir ◦ Colour can shift attention to anything Can be used strategically Draw importance to certain things
Can be greatly exaggerated to add emphasis ◦ Things can be exaggerated to emphasize certain details Drawn around the author’s imagination Allows for great visual interpretation
Scenes that appeal to the reader emotionally Will not make sense unless understood entirely Context is embedded in multiple scenes