Writer and illustrator Andrea Dorfman ends Flawed, her story of overcoming adolescent awkwardness, with a photo of herself at age 14. “With the wisdom of an older person looking back, I look at that picture now and I just love that girl so much,” Dorfman, 49, says. “As we get older we realize these differences that make us stand out are what make us unique.”
The Halifax-based artist’s graphic memoir tells the story of a woman whose teenage insecurities about the size of her nose are triggered when, as an adult, she falls in love with a plastic surgeon. The Firefly Books hardcover, out Sept. 1*, was adapted from Dorfman’s 2010 NFB animated short film of the same name.
Steve Cameron, editorial director of Firefly Books, expects the book will appeal to a broad audience. “We’re calling it a graphic memoir to avoid pigeon-holing it as a book that’s just for youth,” he says. “I know when I read the story it made me think of the things that I feel are my flaws, and I am a 37-year-old man.”
But, like the film, Cameron expects the book will hold special relevance for adolescents. “For youth growing up in today’s media landscape, physical appearance is a big thing,” Cameron says. “This story probably resonates for people who are on Snapchat and Instagram constantly.”
While the book hits the same beats as the animated version, the film shows Dorfman’s hands illustrating the story in an accelerated time-lapse. Those evolving sketches, Dorfman says, were “as intrinsic to the story as the final illustration.” It was a technique that didn’t translate to the page. “We decided pretty quickly to create an entirely new aesthetic, style, design, and even story in some ways,” Dorfman says.
Working with a limited colour palette, she redrew all of the images using gouache, a paint that looks much like watercolour but with a heavier pigment. “The colours are super punchy,” Dorfman says.
For Dorfman, the experience of adapting her film allowed her to get even deeper into the story. “I think I uncovered layers that weren’t quite as apparent in the film,” she says. “[Our differences are] not something that you want to get rid of, especially as a creative person. You actually want them to flourish.”
*Correction, July 6, 2018: An earlier version of this story listed the on-sale date as Oct. 2.