Reviews

Reviews

akrockefeller.com

‘invisible-i-am’ is a book in the form of a teenage girl’s journal, a personal testimony that illustrates, with piercing clarity and uncanny empathy, the destructive effects of bullying on a young person’s psyche.

The book itself is the centerpiece of a larger multimedia enterprise that spans and inhabits the now very familiar social media spaces (a tumblr blog, a twitter account, a youtube channel, a facebook page) which have become the mechanism by which the kind of bullying attacks its protagonist is subjected to are carried out.

It’s a masterful modern take on a classic, and quintessentially American, coming-of-age teenage drama.

Through the 16-year-old Gregg Davis’ eyes we journey through the ugly side of teenage American life, exploring those facets that all too often are happily overlooked – unless being exploited, for the shits and giggles of the ravenous, gawking, finger-pointing and pop-culture-obsessed mob we have gleefully become – from public humiliation & personal betrayal to self-loathing & sexual violence, the confused inner life of a confused American teenage girl – in the (very public) fight of/for her very young life – is transformed, by the words and art of Harriet Showman, into stepping stones to secure a radical-scopic vantage of our society’s greater betrayals & humiliations – the big ones that make the littler personal ones even possible – namely, the racial & class discriminations & divisions feeding into historical systems of oppression and informing every aspect of our current way of life and limiting our integrity, well-being and potential, collectively and as individuals.

Showman’s portrayal of protagonist Gregg Davis’ – warts-and-all – life and opinions is fully-realized and utterly convincing. Anyone who lived life as an American teenager in the late-20th/early-21st century will instantly recognize themselves in it. This is what it’s like. To paraphrase poet Wallace Stevens, “invisible-i-am” is Not Ideas About the Thing but the Thing Itself.

Full Review: http://akrockefeller.com/media/controlled-chaos-the-art-of-harriet-showman/

 

Jennifer Fraser, Ph.D., author of Teaching Bullies (available on Amazon), a courageous book about the damage coaches and teachers who bully inflict on their students.

https://www.facebook.com/TeachingBullies
http://jennifer-fraser.com

As a high school English teacher, I can’t think of a more compelling book for teen readers than invisible-i-am by Gregg Davis, created by Harriet Showman, because it unpacks in real time the significance of bullying. I am presently working on an interdisciplinary unit with an art teacher and a philosophy teacher so that we can do an intensive study of this powerful new novella with our students.

invisible-i-am is written in what appears to be a teen’s “Composition Book” and when you flip through the pages, it’s full of doodles, sketches, and ultimately artwork. It has the uncanny feel of a book used by a teenager in a high school to record stories and sketches. However, by the end of the story, Showman’s use of graffiti styled art, which morphs over the course of the narrative into actual artwork, reveals that its purpose is self-reflexivity of a meaningful kind.

Narrator Gregg Davis has the sarcasm of a teenager and the grief of a bullied child. She moves from witty quips to gut-wrenching loss at lightning speed. While Gregg might be a suitable Holden Caulfield for the twenty-first century, Showman’s novella expands its genre once again to open up the door to international intrigue or perhaps even the paranormal. The reader is left riveted, anxious for more, but definitely, along with Gregg, guessing as to what the future holds.

The terrible tale of the bullying of Gregg Davis is also a classic Künstlerroman that tells the story of the artist’s growth to maturity: Gregg is not merely a bullied girl, she is an artist and invisible-i-am is the first part of her journey. Her doodles and drawings recall the child-infused works of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Casey McGlynn, while some of the drawings share a ‘primitive’ power with the work of artists like Jan Wade.

Showman’s art that evokes the passage of a bullied teen—from being erased by the hate of bullies to the articulate composition of a new self—teaches a lesson to students that goes beyond the walls of the classroom. It’s the most important education a child can receive: they need to learn that they are not scripted by what is said or done to them; they are the creators of their own destiny. They are the narrators of their own story.

Harriet Showman’s invisible-i-am should be taught at all schools. It is an artistic and literary antidote to the poison of bullying.

 

 

Sebastien, Grade 12, British Columbia, Canada

Invisible-i-am by Gregg Davis, written by Harriet Showman, is a highly effective novella in a style of writing that profoundly affects the individual.

I feel I might be of particular qualification to comment about the impact that this novel had on me, as no matter how sad a novel is, I will usually not feel any excessive emotion unless the author does something brilliant that allows the message of the story to creep up inside of me without my awareness. This is exactly what occurs with Invisible-i-am, in the sense that the style of writing and the point of view are so essentially masterful in their creation, that I am left feeling as if I had spent a few days mingling with someone else’s thoughts. Pity is not what I feel when reading this, nor is helplessness what Gregg feels. All that was felt by me was immense interest in the unfolding of Gregg’s “adventure.” Through the diary style, and the way that the author puts Gregg’s innermost thoughts into small parentheses for the reader to understand how she maybe unknowingly feels, the reader gets the sense that they are treading within her mind and invading on her personal thoughts. It is very easy for society to look at situations like Gregg’s and pity them or feel like their life is awful, and that may very well be how it appears, but through this story, we are really seeing how the mind of a extraordinary individual works. In this sense, it almost seems as if she is a superhero or something, and that she is going on an adventure to “fight evil.”

One particular part that I really thought added to the story was the way the author wrote all the “i’s” in lowercase format until Gregg has something of a personal epiphany, and they transform to uppercase “I’s,” bolder and more poignant than the others. This small way of representing the base emotions of the protagonist throughout the story is a really nice touch. This theme of using very small details is something that occurs often in the book with additions of the bracketed comments and such, and adds something that I have never witnessed in another book before.

On the other hand, I felt that towards to last few chapters, the book was drifting off in a direction and story line that could not be concluded with the limited number of pages left, and the ending left me unsatisfied, and a little cheated. Upon further investigation, I determined that there might be a sequel, in which case this criticism is slightly irrelevant. I feel that even with the sequel, the ending of the first book was still left too open ended, and maybe the author should have waited until the second book to reveal much of the ending of the first. What I mean by this is that it would have made more sense if the first book was just Gregg’s backstory and a tiny taste of the adventure to come.

Overall, I would give this book 9/10 stars, as I feel that it was written with immense consideration to some to the smaller details, and the author writes in such a profound way that it affects many people that are otherwise not easily affected by events in books. The only fault, being the ending, but it really does not do enough to detract from this small, but profound novella.

 

 Darren Darren 
https://twitter.com/blackholedarren

The artwork for Gregg’s journal is a journey from one life to another life. Words jump out, others whisper. Gregg draws cats and hearts at the start but this changes to crosses and scrapes as the story goes on. Two drawings by Gregg stand out. Both are self portraits of Gregg, or of Gregg’s emotional state. The first is full of sadness, giant eyes filled with pain and a single tear. The second drawing is a delicate portrait, Gregg is a fragile face trying to hold herself together, almost a bubble that might burst. The journey finishes on an ambiguous entry, there is hope and doubt, a point of no return perhaps, just as Gregg’s life has changed completely.