Emma graduated in September 2016 with a first class honours degree in illustration after four years’ studying distance learning while bringing up a family of six wonderful sons. Overcoming many challenges along the way, the experience was vital in her learning and developing as a professional and illustrator.
Researching the subject for her dissertation which showed picture books and particularly wordless picture books can contribute greatly to the overall development of educational and emotional learning which inspired her to create her own project in this genre. The social and educational advantages in classroom environments of wordless picture book reading cannot be overlooked and advantages for bilingual and immigrant children are clear; picturebooks nurture empathy, incite creative responses and encourage social imagination. Wordless picture books cross linguistic, cultural, social and generational boundaries, encourage verbal discussion and pictorial or written responses; and form emotional connections and understanding in readers. The genre encourages high levels of interaction between peers, adult, and child; thus extending understanding of a range of social and moral issues.
She is inspired by successful authors and illustrators such as Maurice Sendak, Lewis Carroll and Ruy Vidal who didn’t just produce books for children and my style very much suits the alternative book genre.
My version of Cinderella is based upon painful personal childhood experiences, so l have been able to inject personal emotions into each image and create a story which is realistic and believable. The Cinderella character in this story becomes a line drawing, almost paper cut-out as soon as she enters the home where the abuse takes place which enables the reader to empathise more with her.
The book, in graphic novel format, when complete will comprise of 14 double page spreads as part of a 32 page picturebook containing over one hundred drawings. My chosen medium is graphite with some use of acrylics to add colour. The images are mainly black and white, although red is also used in some areas to indicate danger and fear; such as in the beads and ironic heart shaped hair clips and necklaces of the abusive narcissistic mother and ‘golden child’ sister. ‘The Real Cinderella’ is unlike the fairy tale Cinderella in the sense that she eventually finds her own saviour and happiness, rather than waiting for a princely rescue, but her story echoes that of the fairy tale character in many other ways: abused, neglected and starved of affection, she is the ‘scapegoat’, tormented and blamed without cause while her sister can only do good in the mother’s eyes.
Since becoming aware at forty years old of my own abuse at the hands of my mother, and the fact that she never loved me. l was forced to accept that l was indeed ‘parentless’ and began to grieve for both parents (my father had left decades before and l discovered he’d died a few years ago). My intention is to help other victims of this type of abuse which is little known about in the U.K but well studied in the US: that of Narcissistic Maternal abuse.
Most people are unaware of this despite the fact that it is extremely common. Indeed these mothers very much resemble the ‘wicked stepmother’ trope in varying degrees even though they are often, like mine, biological. Outsiders would never believe the mother is abusive, partly due to social conditioning but mainly due to the ‘false self’ expertly adopted by the abuser who presents themselves as a very caring, loving and good person to all except their victims, who are the only ones who know the truth. From a very young age a child, often a daughter is chosen as the victim and the object of all the mother’s hate and anger and cannot ever do anything right. A lifetime of fruitless struggling to win the mother’s approval and love begins and only ends when the victim recognizes the sinister reality of the relationship, and that it will always be toxic. Going ‘no contact’ is often the only way to survive.
Outsiders believe the abuser is the victim of a bad daughter due to years of lies and pretence, and the victim’s reality of pain and suffering is rarely ever acknowledged by anyone, as they are either unaware of the truth, it’s easier to turn the other cheek, or they have already been conditioned to believe otherwise by the abuser. My experience has greatly inspired my work and also my outlook on life.
I am extremely passionate about justice, fairness and equality after being treated for forty years in the opposite manner, and l hope to use my experiences to draw attention to this issue and help others get the justice they deserve. I urge anyone reading this article to please search for more information on the internet about maternal narcissistic abuse as many may be victims of it and never realize.