Numb to This by Kindra Neely

Review: Kindra Neely’s ‘Numb to This’ Is an Unforgettable Memoir of Survival and Cautious Hope

Kindra Neely’s powerful graphic novel debut, Numb to This, is a searing, personal, and wholly unforgettable memoir. Through stunning art, Neely chronicles her experience surviving a mass shooting and the painful aftermath in which she dealt with trauma while the rest of the world looked on numbly. Neely is a comic artist, author, and graduate of The Savannah College of Art of Design. However, the start of her career and her journey in art began in Oregon at Umpqua Community College.

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As described in Numb to This, Neely and her mother moved to Oregon from Texas when Neely was 13. The reason for their move was a rise in gun violence in their Texas neighborhood. The occurrence of a drive-by shooting just a few houses down from them motivated their move to Oregon. In Oregon, she had a sense of safety. It was her mother’s hometown, the schools had chill security guards, she spent her free time swimming in the river with her friends, and enrolled at UCC after graduating high school.

However, her life changed on October 1, 2015, when an armed shooter opened fire on UCC’s campus. The mass shooting took the lives of eight students and one professor. In Numb to This, Neely paints a heartbreaking picture of what she experienced as a survivor of a mass shooting. She candidly portrays the detachment and numbness of the world, the devastation of every subsequent mass shooting, and the moments of hopelessness and pointlessness in a world that just doesn’t seem to change. It is a personal and boldly honest memoir that will resonate with readers long after they’ve finished reading.

Numb to This views gun violence from a personal, human lens

What makes Numb to This so powerful is that it tackles gun violence from a perspective we don’t hear enough. In today’s world, gun violence and gun control is a conversation often dominated by cold, detached politicians or journalists looking to break a big story. With every subsequent mass shooting, there are so many loud voices trying to opinionize, politicize, and dehumanize the event, that the voices of survivors are far too often drowned out.

Numb to This remedies this issue by sharing an intimate and heartbreaking look into how gun violence impacts those who have lived through it. Numb to This does not politicize or dramatize the issue of gun violence in any way. Instead, it’s a deeply personal and moving story of a young woman struggling to stay afloat after experiencing unfathomable trauma. No truly human reader will be unaffected or unmoved by Neely’s tale.

Her tale is of a young woman who can’t find safety anywhere in the world anymore, whose picture and name are callously regurgitated to the media without her approval after surviving a traumatic experience, who fears asking for help who relives the pain of her experience with every subsequent mass shooting, and whose president golfs while she marches for her life. Numb to This demands that we put ourselves in the shoes of those whose existence and experiences we have chosen to ignore in favor of our own opinions, beliefs, and comfort.

The personal hope in Numb to This

While Numb to This largely raises awareness for survivors of gun violence, it is also a story about hope. It doesn’t feign the kind of enormous unrealistic hope of one solution terminating all gun violence at once. Instead, it is peppered with small pragmatic hopes. Neely finds hope in healing through her art, hope in being able to ask for help, and hope that the world will slowly learn to listen to those for whom sharing is difficult.

Numb to This also has cautious hope for humanity—a small hope that the world can learn to listen to, care for, and help others. Above all, it encompasses a small hope that the rest of the world will stop trying to speak for survivors of gun violence. Whether it’s the media running pictures and names of gun violence survivors as a scoop, detached politicians using the issue for their campaign, or unruly bystanders protesting the president coming to speak to survivors—the world needs to learn to stop.

Survivors of gun violence will speak for themselves when, or if, they decide to. Numb to This reminds us that survivors of gun violence won’t be spoken for. They will speak for themselves and there is nothing that can rival the power and influence of their words and stories.

(featured image: Little, Brown and Company)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.