ADVANCED REVIEW: ‘Invisible Differences’

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Invisible Differences: A Story of Asperger's, Adulting, and Living A Life In Full Color. Under red text a woman stands facing front. Behind her a crowd of people walks in various directions.

Invisible Differences: A Story of Asperger’s, Adulting, and Living Life In Full Color is an autobiographical comic about a woman’s life with autism, published by Oni Press, written by Julie Dachez, and adapted, illustrated, and colored by Mademoiselle Caroline. Invisible Differences was created in collaboration with Fabienne Vaslet and translated from French by Edward Gauvin.  

Marguerite has never felt like she fits into society. At work, she shows up and does her job, but doesn’t socialize with her coworkers. She’s in a long term relationship, but can’t connect with her partner. No one understands how she views the world. Marguerite feels misunderstood and emotionally isolated.

Marguerite sits on a couch surrounded by people socializing. Music notes drawn in red and the word 'music' are written over and over. Marguerite is drawn colorlessley as if she is a ghost and not really there.

Once Marguerite is diagnosed with Asperger’s (the  DSM-5 classified Asperger’s under the umbrella term ‘autism spectrum disorder’ in 2013), she connects with other people who are autistic and changes her life to better fit her needs.

But Marguerite doesn’t have an easy time post-diagnoses. Instead, she receives doubt and backlash from her doctor and unhelpful “accommodations” from her employer. Even some of Marguerite’s friends misunderstand, comparing her to autistic stereotypes, some even saying hurtful things like “I’m sorry” or saying that perhaps there’s a cure for her. Some of her friends educate themselves and learn more about autism, while others are not so considerate. Ultimately, Invisible Differences is the story of Marguerite’s self-discovery and self-advocacy.  

Marguerite sits in front of a plain background and discusses her feelings about her diagnoses. "My diagnosis was very recent but I see it as positive. I'm making peace with myself. I'm not "crazy" I'm "different".

I can’t stress enough how much Invisible Differences meant to me as an autistic woman. I saw so much of myself in Marguerite and her struggles. Like many autistic women, Marguerite’s diagnosis doesn’t happen until adulthood. She struggles with maintaining friendships. Even the way she needs to cut tags off her clothes because they irritate her skin. 

Dachez writes from the perspective of both a woman with autism and as a researcher and activist and this is clear throughout Invisible Differences. Dachez tells the deeply personal story of her diagnosis while educating readers about autism spectrum disorders. The personal details Dachez inserts into Invisible Differences add so much to the emotional weight of the story.

The story is autobiographical and Caroline’s art wonderfully reflects that. Pre-diagnoses, Caroline relies on flat blacks, grays, whites, with the occasional accent of yellow. But once Marguerite receives her diagnosis, the art becomes full color. Caroline uses color to visually show readers how Marguerite’s autism figuratively colors her entire worldview. Caroline does a wonderful job of showing readers what overload feels like for Marguerite. When Marguerite begins to become overwhelmed, the panels become chaotic.

Words appear all over the page, representing all of the sounds she’s hearing. While reading Invisible Differences these scenes made me tear up and think over and over “oh my god, this is exactly what it feels like! She gets it!” However, Caroline’s cursive writing makes these scenes difficult to read at times. Overall, Invisible Differences’ art features a simplistic and stylized character design. Since the plot largely relies on emotional storytelling, the art can support and enhance the writing without overpowering it.

Marguerite sits in front of her computer as the writing across the top of the panels describes the noises she is hearing. These noises are causing her to become more overwhelmed.

Invisible Differences wonderfully blends entertainment with education. The final pages include reference notes and additional resources where readers can learn more. I saw myself in Invisible Differences and hope other autistic readers can relate to Marguerite’s struggles, and neurotypical readers can learn more about how we see the world a little differently.

Invisible Differences will be available on August  19th, 2020 wherever comics are sold and online through ComiXology using our affiliate link.

Invisible Differences
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TL;DR

Invisible Differences wonderfully blends entertainment with education. The final pages include reference notes and additional resources where readers can learn more. I saw myself in Invisible Differences and hope other autistic readers can relate to Marguerite’s struggles, and neurotypical readers can learn more about how we see the world a little differently.