Writer-illustrator Colin Thompson has published over 70 books; I am a huge fan of his work, but his new book, Fitting In, is my favorite of them all. It’s a memoir
in which he recalls his deepest emotions and darkest memories. And they begin on page one, where he lists the things his mother gave him.
His list includes Aspergers, crippling shyness, loneliness, and “a step-father who I think she found at the back of an old cupboard and who thought everyone under the age of fifty was a criminal.” Later in the book, Thompson describes his mother as uptight and joyless. I cringed, but I appreciated his honesty. The chapters he entitles
"Sex Education" recall incidents of childhood sexual abuse and divorce.
When he does talk about the positive influences in his life, like his uncle Ted, you still feel his heartache. “Life with Pam and Ted was one long adventure and I never wanted to go home. It was like being deliriously happy drunk and the sombre silence of my own home was the hangover, stone cold sober and full of sadness.” Thompson’s best friend during his early school years was a cat named Tigger. But when he was away at boarding school, he was told by his parents that Tigger died because the cat was pining away for him. “Which meant it was my fault,” Thompson concluded as a boy.
The author, who talks candidly about when his depression led to thoughts of suicide, ends the book by explaining how he came to accept himself. “I knew I would never fit into the mainstream. I couldn’t go with its flow, nor did I want to and nor did I want to swim against it. So I climbed out of the water and went to look for my own pond.”
Some of the entries, which read like diary entries, are dated by a single year (1992) or a series of years (1963 to 1966). Many are illustrated by the author and include black-and-white photographs of family and places from that time period. Readers who enjoy memoirs or Colin Thompson’s other works will appreciate this book.