New Year, New Genre: Graphic Novels

I know far too many people who are skeptical about comics and graphic novels, either because they don’t like the narrative form or because they are under the impression that they are a “lesser” literature. Thus, I have made it my personal and professional mission to combat the general disdain towards graphics. 

Listed below are five graphic novels that are new to the library’s shelves, each of which I think will appeal to readers with a hankering for the perfect book to shake up their reading slumps. 

Queen of Snails: A Graphic Memoir by Maureen Burdock

The aphorism “family is complicated” has never felt more apt than in the context of this graphic memoir, which compellingly grapples with intergenerational trauma, abuse, and displacement. Starting with her childhood in Germany, Burdock shares the pain of her parents’ failed marriage, her own isolation and abuse after moving to the U.S., and the unhealthy coping mechanisms she developed to assert control over her own body. She also wrestles with the fact that while her mother and other Germans suffered during the occupation at the end of WWII, members of her mother’s family were ardent supporters of the Nazis, with some espousing anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial for decades afterwards. The art, with its intricate scientific details of snails, ears, and other bodily workings lends a surreal air, as though an episode of The Magic School Bus used entering the human body as a metaphor for coping with grief. A complicated and honest narrative that ends with hope that healing is possible and that we can create a better world.  – Booklist, November 2022

Who Will Make the Pancakes: Five Stories by Megan Kelso

This collection finds Kelso (Queen of the Black Black) exploring the dynamic between interpersonal relationships and interior experience with skill and insight equal to or greater than anyone currently creating works of short fiction in any format or genre. “Watergate Sue” concerns a woman who feels her mother’s obsession with the Watergate scandal overshadowed her early childhood, and her mother’s inability to see the problem with that. “Cats in Service” opens whimsically, with a woman inheriting her deceased sister’s staff of highly trained, impeccably uniformed cat servants, but when the woman’s young daughter shows a strong preference for her feline nanny over her actual family, the story transforms into a melancholy examination of generational trauma and personal responsibility. Kelso crafts a nuanced portrait of a single mother forced to confront her romantic notions about herself against a backdrop of post-World War II prosperity in “Korin Voss.” She saves the collection’s best and most affecting story for last: “The Golden Lasso” is a heartbreaking coming-of-age tale about a pre-teen girl and the adults who shape her understanding of the world. VERDICT A treasury of impactful stories from a virtuosic artist with a distinctively empathetic point of view.  – Library Journal, October 2022

Movements and Moments by Gantala Press, et al.

This colorful, impassioned collection focuses on Indigenous women rebelling against colonialism and capitalism. Selected from an open call made by the Goethe-Institut Indonesien in Jakarta, eight comics short stories highlight the power and resiliency of Native women, from Bolivians forming a trade union against great odds in “The Anarchist Cholas” by Vanessa Peñuela and César Vargas to villagers in the Philippines fighting to keep ruthless industrialists from building a dam on their sacred river in “Let the River Flow Free” by Gantala Press and Nina Martinez. Other narratives highlight individuals who have dedicated their lives to empowering others, such as “Shanti: Beyond the Veil” by Bandana Tulachan and the autobiographical “Times Will Pass…” by trans artist Chandri Narayanan, drawn by Sadhna Prasad. The artwork throughout is excellent, presenting a panoply of approaches ranging from the cartoony stylings of Cecilia Larrea and Citlalli Andrango’s “Mama Dulu” to Vietnamese artist Phạ m Thu Trà’s lush lyrical drawings in “Tracing Between Colors of the Highlands.” Taken together, these shorts carry a cumulative power, offering a heartening reminder of the strength and spirituality within resistance and a potent call to arms against injustice.   –  Publishers Weekly, October 2022

It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth by Zoe Thorogood

In It’s Lonely At The Centre Of The Earth cartoonist Zoe Thorogood records six months of her own life as it falls apart in a desperate attempt to put it back together again in the only way she knows how. This fresh and thought provoking auto-bio-graphic is an intimate and metanarrative look into the life of a selfish artist who must create for her own survival.

“This book has served as a creative sanctuary for me from the day it was conceived—an experimental playground that I hope will inspire, disturb, and comfort in equal measure,” said Thorogood.

Eric Stephenson, Publisher at Image Comics, added: “Zoe’s debut graphic novel, The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott, was one of the highlights of 2020, and we were thrilled when she approached us about publishing her next project… which as it turns out, will be the project after this one! But one of the great things about exciting new talent is that the creative process often takes on a life of its own and It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth was a project that had to happen, very much to everyone’s delight. This is excellent work by one of comics’ best new voices!” Image Comics, 2022

Wash Day Diaries by Jamila Rowser & Robyn Smith

Wash Day Diaries started out as a successfully crowd-funded mini comic,and this release expands on the original with four additional short stories, giving readers a window into the lives of four best friends and each of their respective wash days. The stories are interconnected and happen within a small time frame, revealing glimpses into the lives of these four Black girls from different backgrounds and with different struggles and situations. Each short story has a different predominant color, representing the mood and the person it focuses on. Color is also used to flip back and forth between past and present. Besides being a window into the lives of these women, it’s a window into the lives of young Black women, specifically, and all the work and care that goes into maintaining their hair. The multilayered stories reflect how hair is cultural and affects not just appearance but their work lives and interpersonal relationships. This inviting and illuminating slice-of-life comic shows how the friends, all in different stages of life, can support and show up for each other. – Booklist Reviews, July 2022

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