The Story of My Tits


By Jennifer Hayden (Top Shelf Productions)
ISBN: 978-1-60309-054-4

Here’s a short sharp review for an exceedingly weighty and fabulously entertaining tome. If the word “Tits” offends you in any way – GOOD! – that’s partly the point and besides, now that you’ve been sufficiently outraged you might as well read on before dashing off and buying the book…

This huge monochrome tome (198 x 203 x 28 x mm) is an agonisingly hilarious cartoon autobiography by an astonishingly funny, amazingly forthright and relentlessly brave woman dealing with far more than her fair share of misfortune. As her tale captivatingly depicts, Jennifer Hayden (Underwire, Rushes, S’crapbook) came to cartooning late after years muddling through as a commercial writer and children’s book illustrator. Her artistic epiphany came when she was dealing with a ghastly medical diagnosis and stumbled upon a fellow sufferer’s own cancer-narrative graphic journal…

Comprising a breathtaking assemblage of key moments, this quirky quilt of rib-ticklers and gut-punches opens with the author’s early days with ‘No Tits’ describing a life “flat as a board” until biology finally works its inevitable magic. It also introduces her uniquely human and utterly irresistible family…

The amiable amble towards adulthood continues in ‘Still No Tits!’ before ‘What, Tits?’ sees little Jenny’s dreams start to come true after a big change that strangely coincides with an increased awareness of Boys…

As is so often the case, life should come with a warning to be careful what you wish for as ‘What Tits!’ concentrates on college days and boyfriends, eventually introducing musician Jim who will play a major role in the decades to come. More important, however, is his wonderful mother and boisterous brothers…

Real life thunders in with ‘Sick Tits’ when Jennifer’s mum gets a devastating diagnosis and has a mastectomy. Her reaction is far from what her excitable daughter expects or understands…

With the family in turmoil ‘Tits in Philly’ sees Jenny upping stakes to get away; living with Jim until ‘Tits in Jersey’ sees them both move in with his mother. Life goes on and the lovers make a pretty good go of being just like grown-ups. Then once again cancer hits someone they both can’t do without…

‘Tits Al Fresco’ pithily observes the modern trauma of dealing with divorce and the unwholesome fallout of having to handle three “mothers”…

The long-dreaded inevitable finally happens in ‘Tender Tits’ but after the birth of their first child (hah, gotcha!) life gets even more convoluted for Jennifer and Jim with ‘Tits at Dawn’. With the extended family gradually dying away, it’s only after Jennifer’s second child and her development of ‘Mom Tits’ that years of ordinary living narrow down to the moment of her own breast-cancer diagnosis thanks to mammography and ‘Tits on Film’.

Jennifer Hayden was 43 when she made the bold decision which changed and probably saved her, and these scenes and snapshots of her life as it changed to accommodate breast cancer are some of the bravest, most poignant and blackly funniest in this journal. Her world becomes increasingly filled with doctors, counsellors, well-wishers, survivors and fellow patients. Through it all though, that big, big family is there… even if her closest acquaintances aren’t…

‘No More Tits’ shares the days of surgery and beyond, leading to an oddly circular regression to her earliest days whilst coping strategies and mundane daily adjustments vie for attention in ‘Goddess Tits’ before the contemporary world catches up and the tale moves away from us in ‘The End: UnTITled’… (although there is a heart-warming Epilogue sent from idyllic sunny ‘Titaly’

Potent, honest, passionately matter-of-fact and phenomenally entertaining, this is a marvel of philosophical resolve and practical defiance that nobody can read without laughing, crying, getting scared and feeling lucky.
© & ™ 2015 Jennifer Hayden.