Mirror Mind is a compelling autobiography of Tory Woollcott‘s childhood as she struggles to overcome dyslexia. The story is very engrossing. Parts of it can make you laugh, cry and angry at what Tory goes through.
Dyslexia is a learning disability. People with dyslexia have trouble recognizing and processing certain symbols like letters in the alphabet. It has nothing to do with a person’s intelligence or eyesight.
Because of the visual nature of this disability, I think comics is the perfect medium to tell this story. We see the world through her eyes. Early in the comic, she shows us how she interprets letters like A B C. Later on, there is a great visual explanation as to why letters give dyslexic folks problems. One thing I really love about the art is something Tory does within the background of her panels. Anything written in the background (like a sign or writing on blackboards) is gibberish for the majority of the comic. The letters only become readable near the end of the comic when she overcomes her disability. This type of detail in the art is subtle. Some readers might even miss it if they are reading the comic quickly. No one would say that the art is incomplete if she did not do this. However, taking time to put it in makes me appreciate the comic a bit more.
For me, Mirror Mind is a cautionary tale. Early detection of any disability is important. However, finding qualified help afterwards is equally important. When Tory is diagnosed with dyslexia, she first gets a tutor every Monday afternoon to try and help her read. When that did not work out, she gets transferred to a school that has a “special education” class. Unfortunately, the teachers there do not know how to teach kids with disabilities. One teacher uses fear and punishment as “motivational” techniques. When Tory’s parents see how poorly she was doing in the new school, they take her to a learning disability specialist. This was the turning point in her life as she finally got sent to a tutor and a teacher who knew how to deal with dyslexic students. They gave her strategies and tools to learn how to read.
This graphic novel is not all doom and gloom. As I mentioned, there are some lighter moments in the story. Tory intersperses scenes of happier times when she hangs out with friends from her neighbourhood.
Mirror Mind is an excellent read as well as educational. I highly recommend it.
You can purchase the book for $10 here. You can also find Mirror Mind in your local library. There are six copies in the Hamilton Public Library and thirty-six copies in the Toronto Public Library.