One of our Summer Reading Bingo squares challenges you to read a graphic memoir – arguably the most respected genre of graphic literature. Maus has recently made a surging comeback thanks to good old fashioned censorship, and both Fun Home and Persepolis are some of the most commonly assigned graphic novels in college classrooms.
While we love the amazing titles above, they sometimes get all the attention that so many graphic memoirs also deserve. So, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to compile a few equally worthy, less touted titles.
Nora Krug takes you through the fraught experience of grappling with her national identity and family history as a German, with stunning art and fascinating page construction. Far from the typical “comic,” the pages of Belonging come alive with art that shapes itself around the part of the story it’s telling, rather than confining itself to panels and speech bubbles. Sensitive, complex, and honest, this read is a perfect start if you’re just beginning your graphic novel journey.
This beautiful, brand new republishing of Yamada Murasaki’s alt-manga classic details Murasaki’s experiences as a mother in 1980s Japan, struggling with the compromises motherhood and marriage have brought upon her. At times an intimate portrayal of suburban womanhood and at others a scathing societal critique, Talk to My Back is a classic for a reason, and this new edition makes it easier than ever to sink your teeth into.
If you like shows like Broad City, Girls, or Fleabag, this is definitely the memoir for you. A refreshingly upfront depiction of modern app-style dating and self-discovery, Goblin Girl is Moa Romanova’s retelling of her experiences in love and life that’s both relatable and sometimes disconcerting. With uniquely stylish art to boot, you can’t go wrong with this pick.
There are graphic memoirs that are so moving and haunting that it’s a complete mystery as to why they don’t rank in high public opinion among “the classics,” and Barefoot Gen is one of them. Originally published in the 1970s, this heavy but worthwhile read details Keiji Nakazawa’s childhood experience as a survivor of the bombing of Hiroshima. Barefoot Gen, albeit brutal, exemplifies just how well a graphic novel can translate things like trauma, history, and the unnecessary suffering that war brings.
Parenthesis is often touted first and foremost as a graphic novel about the experience of illness, but we think calling it a story about recovery is just as apt. Because while Parenthesis tackles Elodie Durand’s descent into a mystifying condition, it also depicts the joy of resurfacing from that grim place, and the myriad of emotions felt along the way. With a relatively simple yet evocative art style, this pick will no doubt suck you in from page one.
Angsty, bittersweet, and sincere, Travis Dandro’s retelling of his teenagehood in 1990s Massachusetts feels both nostalgic and novel at the same time. The art finds a way to be detailed but unpretentious as it depicts Dandro’s adolescence in all its complexities. Put on your favorite Nirvana track and check this one out.
One of the unique facets innate to graphic storytelling is its ability to vividly transport you to the scene you’re reading through the author’s specific visual lens. Year of the Rabbit does just that by utilizing a scratchy, scribbly art style to illustrate the mundane horror that everyday violence brings about. Set during the 1970s Khmer Rouge reign in Cambodia, the book follow’s Tian Veasna’s family’s attempts to survive an occupation responsible for millions of deaths. This harrowing read deserves to be listed alongside the graphic memoir greats.