I’m joining A Year of Reading, Kid Lit Frenzy, Assessment in Perspective, and other bloggers in a monthlong celebration of what is possibly my favorite format, graphic novels. Every Thursday throughout the month of October, bloggers throughout the kidlitosphere will celebrate graphic novels. To learn more about this event, check out the Top 10 Reasons to Join Us in Our October Graphic Novel Celebration and visit the Google Community.
Many of the graphic novels I write about most often on this blog are published for children or adolescents. But I also love graphic novels for grown-ups. Here are 9 of my favorites.
Persepolis is brilliant, but Embroideries is actually my favorite Marjane Satrapi graphic novel. It’s the story of a conversation the women in her family have one afternoon over tea—a conversation that centers around women’s lives and the difficulties of loving and living with men. It’s bawdy and shocking and painful and hilarious by turns. As we read, we begin to understand that conversations like these are the ways Satrapi’s culture trains women in its expectations–and also the ways that women rebel.
From my original post about Seconds: Seconds is about a chef named Katie who is transitioning out of her first restaurant, Seconds, and into her new restaurant, Katie’s. As the name of the new restaurant indicates, Katie’s is all about its chef—she’s the owner and the chef. Unfortunately, the renovation of the cool building she’s bought isn’t going well, and the project is both behind schedule and over budget. Her life is further complicated when her ex shows up at Seconds and reminds her of the uncomfortable and possibly avoidable ending of their relationship. In an effort to make herself feel better, she hooks up with the new chef of Seconds, and while they’re canoodling in the back, one of the waitresses get burned in a kitchen accident. And then things get truly weird: after Katie gets back from taking Hazel to the hospital, she finds a little notebook and a mushroom in the room she rents above Seconds–along with instructions for undoing a mistake. Revision #1? Hazel doesn’t get burned. Result? Katie becomes obsessed with undoing each day’s mistakes, and compiles revision upon revision until she isn’t even sure who she is anymore. There’s an interesting cast of characters, including Lis, the house spirit who leaves the notebook and mushroom for Katie, plenty of plot, and a thoughtful treatment of the theme of revision.
Burma Chronicles is maybe my favorite of Guy DeLisle’s several travel narrative graphic novels. In it, he accompanies his wife, who works for Doctors Without Borders, to Burma with their son. Life under the repressive governmental regime is explored from DeLisle’s perspective as a cartoonist and father of a small child. There is much humor and poignancy and so much to think about.
From my original post about Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel: Anya Ulinich’s graphic novel, Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel, tells the story of Lena Finkle, Russian immigrant, novelist, recently divorced mother of two, as she grapples with family, art, relationships, adulthood. It’s funny and painful and deeply intelligent. I read this book more slowly than I have ever read a graphic novel, savoring the story and art over the course of nearly a week. Definitely one of my top ten reads of 2015.
The Property is a novel about a Jewish grandmother and her granddaughter who travel to Warsaw to try to reclaim a family property that was lost in World War II. It’s a surprisingly complex story that blends family history, family secrets, war history, travel narrative, a coming-of-age story, and a critique of mindless bureaucracy.
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? is a book that haunts me. It’s Roz Chast’s deeply personal memoir about caring for her elderly parents over the last few years of their lives. And it’s bleak, bleak, bleak, the kind of book that makes you want to curl up in a fetal position and moan. It’s also frequently hysterically funny. It’s an important book that can’t help but start conversations about things most of us don’t want to talk about.
We Are On Our Own is a memoir of survival during World War II that deserves to be more widely known. Miriam Katin’s mother faked their deaths to escape from the Nazis. Katin and her mother then spent the rest of the war wandering the countryside, doing whatever they can to survive. The story is very much told from the perspective of the adult who has spent a lifetime trying to process this early trauma. Katin’s art is exquisite and incredibly powerful.
The subtitle of Marbles gives you a clue as to the focus of illustrator Ellen Forney’s graphic novel memoir: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me. Forney has bipolar disorder and this memoir explores her illness and the relationship between bipolar and creativity. Forney has important questions to ask and explore about art, mood disorders, the mental health care industry, friendship, and more. A quick read that will leave you with much to ponder.
Hyperbole and a Half isn’t exactly a graphic novel. It’s more a series of heavily illustrated essays, some very funny and some very painful to read. Brosh’s lavish prose style neatly contrasts with the childlike style of her drawing. There is so much humor simply in the juxtaposition of these incredibly intricate sentences packed with SAT vocabulary words and her hilarious and now iconic self-portrait. My favorites remain The God of Cake and Dogs Don’t Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving (both available in full on Brosh’s website), but her best work is probably her stories about depression.