Storytelling with Pictures: Graphic Novel Memoirs
Comics have been a great medium for storytelling, ever since Superman first appeared on the pages of Action Comics. As time has progressed, authors and illustrators have found new ways to use the comic format, including writing memoirs. Graphic novel memoirs provide a unique spin on the way memoirs are written, and allow for some truly innovative storytelling. Here are a few highlights:
The Complete Maus by Art Spiegleman. Pantheon, 1996. $35
Art Spiegleman’s Maus is one of the most highly regarded graphic novel memoirs, receiving a Pulitzer Prize in 1992. Spiegleman recounts his father Vladek’s experience during the Holocaust. What makes Maus unique is Spiegleman’s use of animals to represent different groups, with Jews being drawn as mice and Nazis as cats. In addition to sharing Vladek’s story of survival, Maus also explores the often tense relationship between father and son, as Vladek is not an easy person to get along with, as well as the ripple effect on their family from Spiegelman’s mother’s suicide.
Good Talk by Mira Jacob. One Word, 2019. $30
Mira Jacob’s Good Talk is described as a memoir in conversations. Jacob starts the memoir by featuring conversations with her hilarious six-year-old son Z, who, like most six-year-olds, has many questions about many topics. Gradually, these conversations turn to more serious topics, like race. Taking place during the lead up to the 2016 election, Jacob begins examining her own experiences with identity and race, through conversations with her parents, in-laws, husband, and friends. Good Talk features characters drawn on top of photographs, giving the reader a sense of location. Good Talk tackles important topics with a great sense of humor, and shows how crucial having conversations with loved ones is.
Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home by Nora Krug. Scribner, 2018. $20
Nora Krug grew up in Germany, but moved to the United States as an adult. In Belonging, she struggles to come to terms with her identity and the history of her home country and her family. Krug does not share the same sort of pride for her homeland as the people she meets at the German-American festivals. Prompted by this uneasy feeling, Krug decides to return to Germany and conduct research to learn the truth about her family’s involvement during World War II. Belonging is beautifully written and illustrated, and with photographs and other mementos makes the reader feel like they are reading a family scrapbook.
This is a small sampling of the many wonderful memoirs told as graphic novels available at your library. Some other excellent titles to try are the works of Lucy Knisley, Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui, and Stitches by David Small.
Elizabeth Weislak is the Youth Services Coordinator for Alamance County Public Libraries. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org