So maybe this is pretentious of me, but I feel like hey, if you wanna know about these graphic novels, then here’s my two cents! I read a ton of graphic novels this summer! They were the perfect remedy for long subway rides, not that I really mind those anyway. But it is one of my favorite experiences to be swept up in these visual stories that usually have such depth as well as beauty. Of course living a few blocks away from Desert Island could make anyone become a graphic novel junkie!
As a preface to this list, I wanted to note some of the motivations behind my choices. I read Tina Robbins’ book, ‘From Girls to Grrrlz: A History of Female Comics from Teens to Zines’ for a paper that I wrote on Feminism and comics. Trina gives a beautiful look at women’s roles as characters in comics and as comic creators in the 20th century. She wrote the book in 1999 and she closed with a call to action of sorts by stating, “As we come to the close of the twentieth century, the comic industry, such a vital art and communication form for over sixty years, is in real trouble”. She continues about how the industry wasn’t making enough content for women and definitely not enough comics created by women. I have been really excited to read many novels that are complex, heavy, sincere and absolutely gorgeous stories by women and though I think the audience is broader than being only for women, I certainly have enjoyed them.
Heads or Tails
I was so taken with Lilli Carre’s novel, ‘Heads or Tails’. Her elements of design are flawless and they have a folk aesthetic to them, which I am always drawn to, but the way that her images mix with her stories is absolutely stunning. Her narratives are so unique and inventive. I love how graphic novels can capture such deep emotions but in a completely approachable way, although some novels are much more nitty gritty, but Carre’s novel is complex but subtle. Just read it.
This One Summer
Jillian Tamaki was my entrance into the graphic novel genre. Her first big graphic novel, ‘Skim’ was kind of a tough one for me at first, but as I settled in I enjoyed embracing some of the tougher issues that she explores. In ‘This One Summer’ Tamaki shows the nostalgia of summer vacation but she also tells a story that contains heartbreak on really deep levels. Both of her novels also explores complex themes in the lives of adults as examined through the eyes of children, which is like, only Jillian freaking Tamaki can do that. She’s just brilliant.
How to Be Happy
I feel like every time I went to hang out with a different friend in Brooklyn, they would have this novel, which is totally understandable because it is beautiful. This novel is similar to Lilli Carre’s, in the sense that it’s so beautifully designed and the illustrations are similar and the stories are also unique, but at the same time her book is distinctly hers. Many of her themes also revolve around apocalyptic worlds and seeking a simpler and more organic time in life. My favorite story involves some fantastic space suit fashion!
Oh man, Allison Bechdel. Her novel tore me up, and I don’t feel like that’s a dramatic response. Her novel was by far the most dense and the most heart wrenching. Her story is of tortured souls and brooding characters, but her story is real and I’m so glad that she shared her story because it is the story of thousands and hundreds of thousands of people who have really complicated lives with difficult questions. I definitely recommend giving this book a good reading, but it’s dang heavy, as a head’s up.
Truth is Fragmentary
I really really love this novel. Gabrielle Bell cracks me up and she’s so relatable as she tells stories about losing her keys, struggling with crippling anxiety and dealing with all around social awkwardness as an adult. I also love that she wrote the novel when she was living in Williamsburg, which is where I was a the time when I read this, so it pretty magical knowing the locations that she talked about and even some of the people at the local shops. Her book is less focused on the illustrations and more about the stories, but her book is so charming and I highly recommend it!
Get Over It
Definitely a winner of the summer! If I just get real for a second here, I saw this book when I was going through a gut kicking break up and I had to buy it and as I read it every page held moments of ,’yep’ ‘uh huh’ ‘I completely understand this feeling right now’. I adore her illustrations so so much and I think she talked about the experience of a break up in way that is so witty and enjoyable and she creates the perfect balance between angst and humor. Her novel has definitely been an influence on the comics that I’ve been making and honestly I have been responding to her statement that it was embarrassing that it took her three years to get over her break up. I just felt like, ‘Don’t be embarrassed girl! Break ups are the worst!’
This is my staple. Marjane Satrapi is one hard core rockin’ woman! I love her story and I think it’s so important to hear from a voice like hers from a culture that is so unfamiliar to us. While an entire culture can not be analyzed by one graphic novel, she gives wonderful insight into Iran during the Islamic Revolution. She is spunky and witty while also discussing political conflict, which may not sound appealing, but I think I enjoyed it the most out of all of the novels I read this summer. It’s truly an enriching read. It’s one of those makes ya laugh makes you cry novels but in a really nice way. Who doesn’t love a punk rock, memorabilia smuggling, rebel girl? Love it!