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To Know You're Alive by Dakota McFadzen (2020)

Finished: Right after Thanksgiving

Grade: A

For children, life can be confusing. They’re still learning how the world works. The line between imagination and reality is blurry, and they have no clear concept of what is “normal.”

Usually narratives about child-like imagination focus on the positive aspects of this blurry reality: Children are more accepting of differences in others, they are more willing to look silly in the name of having fun, and they are amazed by the simplest things in the world. “If only adults could remember some of this childlike whimsey!” So many books and movies tell us “Then they would live happier, freer lives!”

To Know You’re Alive, a compilation of macabre graphic shorts by Dakota McFadzen, reminds us of the other side of that coin: “Yeah, but remember being a kid and genuinely fearing for your life every time you passed by the stairs to the basement? Remember when your family moved and everything you knew to be true was ripped away from you forever? Remember how you accepted a lot of upsetting things as normal because you didn’t know any better?"

"And Isn’t is actually nice to understand things as they actually are? And wouldn’t it actually be terrifying and horrible if you were suddenly thrust back into that ever-shifting world of confusion?"

Maybe the structures we cling to as adults are restrictive, but they are also comforting, and the fact that they are remarkably fragile is as terrifying as it is freeing.

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