The Connecting Thread
Caregiving and Camp Syndrome: A Daughter’s Memoir
Artist Guida Joseph has created an unusual documentary memoir on both her family’s origins and current experience by adopting a two-pronged approach via each of her parents. In the first part of the book, she relays her Jewish father’s roots and war trauma, incorporating sections of his own camp memoir and historical documentation. The second part describes the complexities of caring for her alcoholic, senile mother.
The author writes, ‘For as long as I can remember, I have been busy rescuing my parents and playing father and mother to two unhappy children.’ Working from a therapy-based approach, Joseph attempts to break free from the noose of her parents’ traumas.
Particularly the pieces on caring for her 94-year-old mother are recognizable, with its comical irritations, frustrations and downright despair. Her witty portrayal of her larger-than-life mother shows her in all her facets: fierce, quirky, brave, deaf, tricksy and helpless. But her late father also comes to life, a man who made old-fashioned gruel for her every Sunday, but could also become incomprehensibly angry and lash out hard – not just at the dog.
This is a work of art, full of memories and reflections, that offers as much visual as reading pleasure. It is a graphic memoir in the style of Maira Kalman or Francine Oomen: tragicomic, with striking details. The author uses drawings, doodles, letters, old photos and historical documents to tell her story.