A heartbreaking story of strength in times of adversity, Little Mama by Halim Mahmouidi boldly addresses the rather disturbing and horrifying subject of childhood abuse. Readers follow young Brenda through the uncomfortable truths of her childhood as she relays them to her therapist, watching her grow from birth but also from her state as a toddler as she sits upon the couch and recalls and confronts the awful moments of her past she had once run from. Now pregnant, this is the story of Brenda’s resilience and fears regarding both her past and her future.
In so many ways, this was a difficult read for me. The graphic levels to which the abuse is portrayed were startling, at times, and as Brenda’s mother begins with a teenage pregnancy similar to that of the one my sister had–with even similar attitudes–it nearly hit close to home. Fortunately, the outcome was different as my sister never married an abusive man as Brenda’s mother does. In so many ways, Brenda made to grow up early, earning herself the nickname Little Mama as she not only cares for her mother, but her little brother as well.
She grows up in an incredibly difficult situation with a mother who is almost never ready or qualified to be a parent. Brenda’s maturity at a young age is in stark contrast to the lack of it in her own mother. I must admit that was immeasurably impressed with how the author portrayed Brenda’s experiences by having her depiction in the therapists office begin with her looking like a toddler, mirroring her feelings as an adult while she revisited each of the troublesome and traumatic experiences of her childhood. By the end of the story we are left with Brenda, grown, and truly ready to face her past and future.
Dark and disturbing as this graphic novel is, the unfortunate truth about it is that the story is in fact, true. There are a great many–far too many–young children who are subjected to the traumas of such situations, who subsequently have to work through the horrifying events of their childhood as they grow into adulthood. It is a life no one should have to experience, and yet it is something that exists within our society. While difficult to read and emotionally harrowing, Brenda’s tale is an important one.
Gorgeous artwork accompanies the traumatic tale, creating a viscerally uncomfortable read as a result. And in its own way, this itself is extremely important. While this book is sure to distress readers that, I think, is precisely the point. We should not feel comfortable with the events of this story. We should not feel apathetic. We should feel horrified, angry even. That this is still prevalent in the world is something that we should not shy ourselves away from simply because it upsets us.
Brenda’s story is a strong one, both in her own healing and in how much it imparts truths on its readers. Though no one should suffer what this young woman had to suffer, it is forever amazing to know how resilient a human can be against the barrage of a storm.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.