Saturday, June 18, 2016

My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf (A Graphic Novel Quick Recap)

My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf

Derf Backderf wrote and illustrated My Friend Dahmer recounting his personal experiences with serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer before the murders, back when they were in high school together. Growing up in a small town in Ohio, Backderf and his friends not only noticed Dahmer, but were perhaps the closest thing he ever had as friends. They did not cruelly bully him as others did, but sadly he was not much more than an oddity to them. His strange behaviors - such as how he mimicked a speech impediment and faked seizures - were their entertainment, and they even went so far as to create a “Dahmer Fan Club.” While Backderf’s group was not aware of the seriousness of Dahmer’s issues, Backderf holds the adults in their lives accountable for not noticing the issues at all. Whether it was Dahmer’s parents who were too busy fighting with one another or school teachers who were oblivious to the fact that Dahmer showed up to school drunk regularly, Backderf raises the concern that they failed to recognize any of the warning signs and get him help. At the same time, Backderf clearly asserts that as soon as Dahmer commits his first murder, he becomes fully responsible for the crimes. Backderf’s storytelling and artwork work extremely well together with details such as a “Congratulations” sign with the C askew signaling that things are off kilter from the beginning. Working at a school, this tragic real-life tale moved me, and I am reminded how critical it is to notice all students and speak up when my intuition kicks in.

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