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Graphic Medicine Novels: The Courage to Be Me

 The Courage to Be Me



Bibliographic Record

 Title  The Courage to Be Me
 Author  Burrowes, Nina
 Illustrator  Various
 Mental Illness  PTSD
 Publication Date   2014
 Publisher  NB Research Ltd
 ISBN  978-1910318003
 # Pages  188
 Color Profile  Black & White
 Worldcat Link
 Amazon Link
 Annotator  Jen A. Fisher


The Courage to Be Me is a self-help tool for people living with the psychological consequences of sexual violence. It chronicles several members in group therapy at the Portsmouth Abuse and Rape Counseling Service (PARCS) and how the support of the group helped them find the courage to reclaim their lives. While their sexual abuse is never shown, the book explains each of the women’s stories. The vignettes illustrated by different artists showcase that while the women's journeys and group therapy have brought them together, they are also vastly different people who deal with trauma in different fashions.


Burrowes draws some of the illustrations herself, mostly in the introduction and conclusion. For the most part, however, she leaves the meat of the stories to the several artists who worked in tandem with her towards the creation of the book. Alex Bertram-Powell, Katie Green and Jade Sarson are a few of the artists who illustrated individual chapters, each of which tells the story of a member of the therapy group. The variety of visual expression presented by the various illustrators helps reveal the differing psychological states and perspectives of the women, while Burrowes tells their stories through short, but powerful narratives. Burrowes also makes use of several cartoon cats that appear at random times throughout the text. They were created to remind readers that whenever they see a cat, to go ahead and take a break from the reading if they are finding the book’s subject too difficult.

Mental Illness Narrative

Several of the women in the group show signs of PTSD. In many of the stories, we see examples of dissociation, intense shame, and even fierce denial, which leads to the victims going to extreme lengths to pretend traumatic events never happened.

Humanistic Revelations

Burrowes does a fine job commenting on the subject of victim blaming, articulating how enforcing rape stereotypes is a coping mechanism that the public uses to avoid truly addressing the underlying issue. Burrowes uses this and many examples throughout the book to give the readers a healthy way to process their feelings and emotions and to let them know they are not alone.


While this book might be of the most value to mental health and social work professionals, it’s useful to anyone struggling with PTSD, as its central focus is to make the needs of survivors our primary concern. The book is kind, but not patronizing, and never lets the personal hopes and fears of the survivors be overwhelmed by clinical preoccupations.

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