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The Bite That Changed My Life

More than a decade in the making, Emil Ferris’s stunning graphic novel, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, will be released on February 14.

Writer and illustrator Emil Ferris has always had an affinity for stories about outsiders. Growing up in Uptown in the 1960s, Ferris was part of a diverse community of people who she says “operated outside the system.” Her neighbors included black migrants who traveled north during the Great Migration, white Appalachian miners living in abject poverty, and thousands of Native Americans who left their reservations in the wake of relocation programs. “There was an incredible beauty,” says Ferris. “These were people who suffered, but were strong. They were survivors.”

One reason Ferris was drawn to those on the fringe was because she herself was a loner. Born with scoliosis, Ferris was immobile for much of her childhood. “I was also severely hunchbacked, which is why I loved monsters,” says Ferris, who also characterizes her younger self as very wolf-like. “I had this vision of this little wolf girl, enfolding in the arms of this tall handsome cut-apart Frankenstein character.”

Ferris uses those early experiences as a loose backdrop in her stunning debut graphic novel, My Favorite Thing is Monsters. Set in 1960s Uptown, Monsters is told from the perspective of a 10-year-old’s diary as she attempts to solve the murder of her mysterious upstairs neighbor. The book, which is haunting, ambitious, and altogether remarkable, took Ferris more than a decade to complete. The story behind its creation is as astounding as the book itself. Here, in an exclusive piece for Chicago, Ferris details her own stranger-than-fiction saga. — Elly Fishman

 

 

 

 

 

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