Dear Scarlet: The Story of My Postpartum Depression by Teresa Wong
Published by Arsenal Pulp Press on April 1st, 2019
Genres: Graphic Novel, Memoir, Non-Fiction
“Your first two months in the world were the hardest two months of my life… But I’m not telling you all this to make you feel guilty. I wanted to show you that you don’t always have to be strong. And that you can come back after losing yourself.”
After I loved Lucy Knisley’s Kid Gloves, I decided to seek out some other graphic novel memoirs that touch upon parenting. I know, I’m not exactly the demographic for it, but I find the topic extremely fascinating.
In Dear Scarlet, Wong writes and illustrates the story of her struggle with postpartum depression in the form of a letter to her daughter, Scarlet. As Teresa grapples with her fears and anxieties and grasps at potential remedies, coping mechanisms, and her mother’s Chinese elixirs, it’s about one woman’s battle against the cruel dynamics of postpartum depression.
It’s so troubling and upsetting that there’s a culture of silence when it comes to parenthood. Women feel the pressure to put on a face and keep soldiering through when they know something is wrong. And PPD is no different.
Wong’s book made me realize that there’s a tremendous amount of pressure on new mothers to be exclusively joyful after the birth of their baby.
If you express anything other than this, you’re automatically labeled a bad mother.
As someone who isn’t pregnant, a mother, or had PPD, I can’t speak to how accurate this book is. And again, every woman’s experience will be different.
But I found this book to be equal parts heartbreaking and funny. I can only assume that Wong perfectly captured some elements of what it’s like to suffer from PPD, those feelings of inadequacy and loss, and all the complexities of new motherhood.
I certainly felt it through Wong’s illustrations. Although they are simplistic and spare, but they are fantastic at communicating her message. They’re emotional even sometimes with just one stroke.
Even though I couldn’t relate to 99 percent of the book, the 1 percent I did understand was her asking why everyone else seems to have it together except her.
It felt all too familiar, and I had chills when I read that part. It’s the same thought I have very frequently.
In very few pages, I appreciated how she explored pregnancy, labour, and new motherhood. And she also explained all the coping mechanisms she used. How great is that!
It can serve as inspiration for others for things to try. She used a combination of medication, counseling, and exercise to get her through it. I also appreciated how she weaved in lyrics of songs that were important to her.
Even if you haven’t experienced PPD, it’s an important topic to be aware of. More people should be informed about it. Through Dear Scarlet, Wong showed bravery with her candor and willingness to discuss this difficult topic.
I absolutely recommend this short graphic novel to mothers. It’s a reminder that moms are never alone and that there’s always hope.