Books

Teva Harrison, award-winning Toronto cartoonist, dead at 42

The author of In-Between Days, who was known for her poignant comics about living with metastatic breast cancer, has died.
Teva Harrison is the author and illustrator of In-Between Days: A Memoir About Living with Cancer. (House of Anansi Press/David Leonard)

Teva Harrison, award-winning cartoonist known for her poignant comics about living with an incurable illness, has died on April 27, 2019 in Toronto at the age of 42.

Her husband, David Leonard, confirmed Harrison's death on Facebook.

"Yesterday, in our house, surrounded by family and old friends, she lay among us sleeping, alternatively waking and smiling as people spoke to her and shared their memories with her. She was peaceful and happy," he wrote.

"As she said in her book, she wanted to 'live like a tornado,' and she did for every part of her life. Full-hearted, eyes wide to beauty and wonder, and pouring love into everyone around her."

The Toronto cartoonist was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at the age of 37. She began publishing short comics about her declining health and facing the end of her life in The Walrus.

Harrison later collected the comics in a graphic memoir called In-Between Days, published in 2016. Eye-opening and darkly funny, the book won the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for Non-Fiction and was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction.

The visual artist talks about her graphic memoir of living with incurable cancer. 15:06

In-Between Days examined how her diagnosis reshaped her life — from socializing at parties and feeling the uncomfortable gaze of others to navigating the western medical system.

An image from Teva Harrison's graphic memoir (House Of Anansi Press Inc.)

"In the beginning I was just drawing for myself. It was about having the thoughts and clarifying them by bringing them out in the open," said Harrison to CBC Books in 2016.

"Humour is an excellent coping mechanism when you're sick. You have to be able to laugh at things. But the first comics were more about dark places. I started from darker places and then started to find more and more and more absurdity."

Harrison's comics were exhibited at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

Her writing and artwork have been featured in publications like Granta, Reader's Digest and the Globe and Mail. 

This excerpt is taken from In-Between Days. Text and illustration copyright © 2016 Teva Harrison. Reproduced with permission from House of Anansi.

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