Daddy's Girl
by Debbie Drechsler (Fantagraphics, 1996; 2008)

On the first page of Daddy's Girl, Lily seems like a fairly normal adolescent girl, arguing with her younger sister Pearl over the light in their bedroom.

On page 2, Lily has her father's penis in her mouth.

I'm sorry, I didn't really mean to spring that on you. But you need to know from the start just what kind of book this is before you pick it up to read.

Lily is the victim of sexual abuse from the one man in the world she should be able to trust more than any other. She's afraid to say anything to her siblings, and she's fairly sure her unsympathetic mother would be of little help. Besides, her daddy has her pretty much convinced it's her own fault, anyway.

It's a hell in which far too many children live, a place that is usually hidden from the rest of us in dark corners and dark bedrooms cluttered with toys. But Debbie Drechsler lays it bare in stark, heavy black-and-white inks in a comic book, of all things, that chronicles through the eyes of fictional Lily Debbie's own abuse at the hands of her father.

Daddy's Girl is blunt and horrible. It's sick and disturbing. It's utterly wonderful in that maybe, just maybe, someone will find it, read it and finally be able to tell another person about their own dark secret.

Despite the explicit nature of the topic, Daddy' Girl is rarely explicitly drawn. Yeah, that scene on page 2 catches you off guard and sticks in your head with sickening force. But Drechsler obviously knows her story does not require graphic depiction of the acts that occur throughout the book; what speaks far more eloquently to readers is the impact it has on Lily's life even when her father isn't around -- her inability to relate to boys her own age, gaps in her memory, pervasive feelings of guilt.

The image that sticks with me the most is on page 4, as well as the cover. Lily -- tiny and fragile -- sits in the dark in her family's kitchen after her father has gone to sleep, gulping down cookies long after she's full just to get the taste out of her mouth.

You won't enjoy reading Daddy's Girl. This book will shock you, and it should.

review by
Tom Knapp

19 April 2008

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