Claremont C. (1984, 1990, 1991, 2000) X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga NY: Marvel Characters, Inc.
A volume with the collection of Uncanny X-Men comic book numbers 129 through 137, Chris Claremont’s X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga is a graphic novel that shows the evolution of superheroine Jean Grey (more commonly known as Phoenix from seemingly the X-Mens’ most weakest member, to the dark and most powerful member. A physical manifestation of the Phoenix Force—which enables her to have telepathic/telekinetic powers, resurrect from death, and manipulate time—Jean finds herself encompassed by absolute power, giving in to an evil side in which she deems herself as the Dark Phoenix. Although throughout this graphic novel we see Jean as the Dark Phoenix, it is made known in the end that Jean is the Dark Phoenix, and one can not exist without the other—leading into Jean’s self-sacrifice. While many may find this dismal ending to be inappropriate for young adults who read graphic novels, it is more important to assess the surrounding theme of Jean’s story, and what young adult readers can learn from it. If one does not realize the power they hold and if it is worth sacrificing, that power they hold so dear may corrupt them.
Joffo, Joseph. (2013). A Bag of Marbles. Minneapolis: Graphic Universe.
Based on the 1973 memoir by Joseph Joffo, this graphic novel recounts and visualizes the true story of Joseph and his older brother Maurice’s dangerous journey from Nazi-occupied Paris to a free zone in which their other brothers reside. Through the use of watercolor and narrative blurbs, this visualization reads more like a comic and less like a picture book, however it does not make its contents any less endearing. By following the journey of these two young boys, not only does this book provide a visual experience for children who are learning about historical occurrences such as the Holocaust and WWII, but may appeal to those who also feel they are trying to find a way to be true to themselves while still trying to understand perceptions of their identity.
For the past year, I have been living with multiple sclerosis. More specifically, relapsing-remitting MS. And being correctly diagnosed took longer than what living with this thing that I can finally put a name to has actually been. To make sense of that, I have to take you back to May of 2016. You know that tingling sensation you get when your foot falls asleep? I woke up each day with that feeling progressing from my toes, up my legs, and into my waist. My mom took me to the doctor and they drew blood, telling me if the sensation got worse, to go to the ER. And the next day, Mother’s Day, that’s what I did–I couldn’t hold myself up and could barely walk.
When I first saw these white matter lesions on this MRI in 2019, I didn’t know how to feel.
But after going through them a few times, it actually made me feel like I had closure. Physically seeing it gave me the push to fight.
After a four day stay in the hospital where they drew blood, spinal fluid, and took images of my brain, the on-call neurologist didn’t have a clear answer. He chalked it up to stress–I was a few weeks away from graduating college, my part-time job was ending, and it was a confusing time in my life. They prescribed me anxiety medication and said whatever inflammation this was (because from the spinal fluid they took, they saw my white blood cell count was high, meaning my body was trying to fight something off) would go away in weeks, months, maybe years. He was wrong.
I was always tired. Eventually I could walk normally again, but anytime I bent down or put my chin to my chest, I would have that weird, tingling sensation down my spine and legs. I would have these itching spells all over my body when I felt hot, which I later learned is called neuropathic itching, caused by the demyelintation of nerves due to MS; I have a photo of what that looks like and a short description of MS to the right–thanks MayoClinic!
I would get dizzy and trip over my own footing when there was nothing in my way. Eventually, in June of 2019, I woke up with everything looking fuzzy out of my right eye. I thought this was weird since I had lasik surgery back in 2017, so I chalked it up to how many hours I spent looking at the computer screen at work. A few days later, I lost all ability to see out of my right eye. I quickly made an appointment with my lasik surgeon, who after looking at everything, said my lens looked healthy and I should be seeing at 20/20 vision. He then asked me to put my chin to my chest and if I felt any sensation. I did, and explained that I had previously had this issue before. From there, he referred me to an optic neurologist–a guy who specialized in the brain/eye connection. I was uneasy, but I had been through all of this before. It couldn’t be MS. I was sure that the doctors from before would have told me.
After a series of images done on my brain AND spine, the neurologist sat my mom and I down and stated that the lesions found on both were consistent with multiple sclerosis. To his frustration, the lesions he saw on my spine were a few years old, meaning had the last neurologist done a scan of my spine, he would have caught the lesions there, and had me diagnosed and starting treatment sooner.
At that moment, my mom began tearing up. Understandably so. MS is a chronic, unpredictable disease; an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks itself. It is progressive and there isn’t a cure.
To break it down simply, “sclerosis” means scarring and “multiple” refers to the sites of the scarring on the brain and spinal cord. Due to this scarring, symptoms such as numbness, fatigue, memory problems, and loss of balance end up happening and are usually permanent. As I mentioned earlier, I have relapsing-remitting ms. While this means I have periods of stability in between relapses, these relapses are due to both new and worsening symptoms which can last for weeks or months at a time. And while right now it’s a relapsing form, eventually (a few years, decades if I’m lucky) it will transition to a progressive form where remission is less and less.
Am I scared? Every day. It’s always in the back of my mind: will tomorrow be the day I am resigned to a wheelchair? Will the blindness in my eye or both eyes come back? Will my remission times be shorter?
But am I also hopeful? Yes. Fifteen years ago, multiple sclerosis was essentially a slow death sentence. Now, there are fifteen different types of treatments to slow that progression. One that, so far within this year after two infusions, I’m grateful for. While I’m still coming to terms with what the new “normal” is for me, I can only hope going forward that those who decide to go on this journey with me can come to terms with it too.
So that’s my story. I’m going on chapter 27 in the book that is Vanessa. And although I wish I could take a peek at what’s ahead, I’m looking forward to what’s next. ✌🏻🧡
This work by Maya Angelou, first read at the White House tree lighting ceremony in 2005, becomes an illustrated children’s book that expresses the true meaning behind the concept of the holidays; a time where people of different ages, religions (believers and non-believers), and classes come together and celebrate communal peace. While this specific publication is illustrated more for the interpretation and enjoyment of children, these pictures illicit a beautiful representation of different individuals within the community coming away from rancor, and reveling in the abundant sound of peace which brings comfort, security, and harmony. What’s most interesting about this work, is the way in which although the word “Christmas” is used to describe this celebratory time of the year, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslims, etc., revel in this time of holiday celebration and peace. Christmas, here, I believe is being used as a word to denote a time of year, rather than being used as a sort of “religious umbrella”.
Thong, Roseanne. (2015). Round is a Tortilla: A Book of Shapes. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.
Written by the author of Round is a Moon Pie, this multicultural children’s book encourages there reader to find shapes in the different portrayals of food and objects of Hispanic origin. Not only is it great for children in learning shapes, but this book allows children to learn Spanish words such as paletas, masa, and sandia–encouraging an early learning of a second language. Scenes featuring different Latino traditions and cultural objects allow children to gain a greater understanding of the different cultures that not only are present within America, but all over the world. Bonus to this? There’s a glossary located within the back of the book that parents and children can utilize in order to look up the Spanish terms that occur throughout this bilingual piece of literature.