Noted children’s author’s new graphic memoir illustrates coping after husband’s death from ALS

April 4, 2017-Berkeley, CA

Marissa Moss, author-illustrator has written over 50 children’s books, from picture books to young adult novels. She is best known for the Amelia’s Notebook series with over five million novels sold and, Barbed Wire Baseball, which won the California Book Award gold medal. Marissa is the founder of Creston Books which is an independent children’s publishing house.

Marissa Moss 2
Marissa Moss, Author of "Last Things"

When her husband of 17 years, Harvey Stahl, was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 60 in 2001, after returning from time spent in Rome with his family. Marissa had a succinct feeling that Harvey would not be the same husband he once was. The disease progressed quickly, and Marissa soon had to care for Harvey all while trying to keep her children’s lives as normal as possible. Harvey had Bulbar ALS which soon led to care services and surgeries. Stahl never lost mobility of his whole body, he even courageously stomped out of the ER the day before he died.

 In a short seven months, Harvey fought his hardest and lost his battle to ALS in 2002, three days after his 61st birthday. Soon after, Marissa began writing and illustrating a traditional prose memoir to cope with the loss of her husband, father of her children, and best friend.

Marissa Moss talking about memoir  
Marissa Moss commentating on her graphic memoir  

“As an writer, I felt that telling our family’s story was a mechanism to help me not feel so alone, guilty, or clueless about what was happening,” shared Marissa. “For ten years, that story was only words, and it was the illustrations that brought it to life as a graphic memoir.”

She recently released Last Things: A Memoir of Loss and Love, as a way of coping with the loss of her husband who died from ALS. Last Things is graphic memoir which shares the many tensions during a serious illness between caregiver and patient, and between denying death and preparing for it. The devastating and catastrophic effects that ALS had on the entire Moss’ family make the novel immensely personal.

“With art, I could show my son's expressions,” shared Marissa. “They became much more vivid characters. And so did my husband, all too human in his fear, anger, and denial. The art opens up the pages, allows the reader to breathe, and provides a break from the war zone our family is plunged into.

Marissa Moss Book Signing
Book Display at the Green Apple Store Book Signing

“More than that, the pictures deepen and broaden the story, with details and moods beyond the words. We humans are visual creatures. We've been telling stories through images since the time of the cave-paintings, pictures that offer an immediacy that words alone don't have.” One of Marissa's inspirations for making Last Things a graphic memoir was Stitches by David Small. Stitches by David Small is his memoir about getting throat cancer from his doctor father's radiation treatments and losing the ability to speak which leads him to running away from home to become an artist. She felt that this graphic memoir brought the characters more life and made it appropriate for all ages. Marissa's story was a way for her to normalize the uncomfortable thought of losing a loved one. 

“The novel is a gripping portrayal of how devastating ALS can be,” said Catherine Lomen-Hoerth, M.D. PhD, Clinic Director of the ALS Treatment and Research Center at UCSF. “It is also a powerful example of resilience and hope.”

Last Things  
"Last Things" by Marissa Moss  

“For every person affected by ALS, there is a story to tell,” said Fred Fisher, President and CEO of The ALS Association Golden West Chapter.  “From her front-line perspective, Marissa Moss bravely shares her family’s challenges during her husband’s journey with ALS in a very personal way. We are grateful for her efforts to raise awareness and support for people living with ALS and their families.”

Even though it has been 15 years since her husband’s death, Marissa remains committed to raising awareness and support for the ALS community. Her publisher, Conari Press, will be holding several events in local book stores around the San Francisco Bay Area: 

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  - Laurel Book Store, 1423 Broadway, Oakland CA - Saturday, May 6 at 5 pm

 -  Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd, Corte Madera CA - Sunday, May 7 at 4 pm

 -  Books Inc, Opera Plaza, 601 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA - Thursday, May 11 at 7pm

For more information about the book or to purchase a copy, please visit: https://www.amazon.com/Last-Things-Graphic-Memoir-Loss/dp/1573246980

For more articles like this one, check out the Berkeley Side: www.berkeleyside.com/2017/05/04/berkeley-author-marissa-moss-tackles-love-death-first-adult-book/

Link to book trailer: Last Things Book Trailer

http://www.marissamoss.com/