Windhaven (Graphic Novel)
George R. R. Martin
George R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle’s graphic novel begins with Maris, Windhaven’s heroine, as she scours the shoreline for scraps of metal with her mother during a storm. While surveying the sand for “treasure,” she crosses paths with a flyer, a young man with mechanical wings that allow him to go wherever he wishes. As Maris watches him glide through the wind she marvels at his silver wings, she decides that one day she too will soar through the sky like a bird. Martin and Tuttle’s futuristic narrative follows Maris as she fights tooth and nail to achieve and protect her dream in a world where flight is a coveted privilege. A compelling story of determination, rebellion, and hope, Windhaven will remind you of how one dream can change the world.
My Brother's Husband, Volume 2
In the continuation of Gengoroh Tagame’s heartfelt manga series, My Brother’s Husband, Volume 2, readers witness the growing bond between Yaichi, his daughter Kana, and his brother’s widower Mike grows. Although Mike’s time in Japan is temporary, his presence forces Yaichi to confront his misconceptions about his late brother’s life, and challenges his definition of what love—romantic and familial—can look like. A refreshing and stirring portrait of a family grappling with grief, My Brother’s Husband is a striking depiction of the heart’s resilience even in the wake of loss. Best enjoyed in one sitting, Tagame’s tale is an example of the transformative power of memories and love.
Leela Corman’s compelling feminist saga centers on the lives of Esther and Fanya—the twin daughters of Jewish Russian immigrants–who come of age in the Lower East Side of New York City at the dawn of the 20th century. As they grown up, their paths diverge, but two things remain the same: their love for each other and their frustration with the limitations of conventional femininity. As adults, Esther explores her autonomy by subverting the male gaze and thwarting the advances of would-be lovers as a burlesque dancer at a brothel while Fanya becomes the assistant of a doctor who is determined to offer her patients contraception and options for family planning, even if it means breaking the law. From start to finish, Unterzakhn chronicles the lives of both sisters as they learn how to define womanhood on their own terms, for better or worse. Colman’s graphic novel is as memorable as its undeniably dynamic protagonists. Its pages will transport you with ease.
Chicken with Plums
The luminescent pages of Marjane Satrapi’s Chicken with Plums document the final days of her great uncle, the beloved Iranian musician Nasser Ali Khan. The story begins with a broken tar and expressively depicts Nasser Ali’s resulting despair over the demise of his irreplaceable instrument. Distraught with the loss of his most prized possession, Nasser Ali crawls into bed and remains there, heartbroken as visions of the past engulf his mind. With each stroke of Satrapi’s masterful pen, Nasser Ali’s life and legacy become a meditation on creativity, family, and mortality. Chicken with Plums is a brief yet dazzling tribute to the power of music and memory. It is a must-read for anyone who enjoys a well-told story.
Originally released as a comic book series, Charles Burns’ dark classic is a haunting tale of an adolescent epidemic that delves deep into the physical, psychological, and social changes (and strangeness) that make being a teenager sometimes feel like the end of the world. Awash in drugs, sex, and glam rock, Black Hole is a satisfyingly disturbing allegory about growing up that will linger in your mind years after reading it for the first time.
Passing for Human
Liana Fink’s Passing for Human is a deeply intimate and sincere recounting of the life defined by beginnings and difference. A vividly woven tapestry of remembrances, musings, and reimagined origin stories, Finck’s inarguably breathtaking story is an unorthodox homage to being weird that simultaneously celebrates what it means to become who you are. As Finck examines her otherness, the boundaries between fact, fiction, and form are blurred, resulting in a unique testament to the multi-fauctedness of selfhood. Equal parts myth and memoir, Passing for Human is an imaginative depiction of what it means to celebrate oneself. Refreshingly unconventional, Finck’s memoir urges us to remember that being different can be a gift.
Our Story seamlessly stitches together the patchwork of moments that defined Rao Pingru’s life. Throughout the pages of this stunning debut, Pingru’s watercolors and earnest prose make the heartwarming memories of his childhood, the harrowing realities of war, and the joys of a life-altering romance feel immediate. Each page resurrects the past in a nearly tangible way. An expansive story about the resilience of the heart, Pingru’s memoir not only tells the story of one man’s journey, but the story of a nation on the brink of perpetual change. Our Story is an intimate history that reminds us of how even the most ordinary moments are monumental.
Everything Is Teeth
Evie Wyld’s graphic novel Everything is Teeth is a poetic and imaginative retelling of her childhood summers which she spent on the rural coast of Australia. Each panel pulls Wyld’s audience deeper into the swirling consciousness of her younger self. Within her memoir, the ocean becomes a makeshift mirror and sharks evolve into metaphorical omens, a foreshadowing of “something watching from the dark,” of “something waiting to strike.” Endearingly perceptive and illuminating, Everything is Teeth is an existential bildungsroman best enjoyed in one sitting. Its levity and depth will awaken something deep within readers’ hearts.
Alison Bechdel’s groundbreaking bestseller Fun Home is an evocative and gripping love letter to the past and the people who shaped her the most. From the very beginning, Bechdel’s depiction of her family and her relationship with her father—a quasi-closeted queer high school teacher—evolves into a engrossing rumination on intergenerational trauma, silence, and the way those that we love and how we remember them can help us make sense of who we are and yearn to become. A true definition of a page-turner, Fun Home is an essential and timeless addition to everyone’s shelf.
Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical bestseller Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood recounts her coming of age beneath the heel of a totalitarian Iran. Volleying between humor, heartbreak, and the horror of war, Satrapi’s past unfolds in tandem with her nation’s political unrest. Despite this, Satrapi dreams of something more, of something beyond the fundamentalist suppression and violence of the Shah. An urgent and soul-shaking account of a young woman’s political and creative awakening, Persepolis is a deeply moving portrait of an artist forged by rebellion, compassion, and justice.
Out on the Wire
The perfect read for lovers of podcasts and iconic radio shows like This American Life, Snap Judgement, Radiolab, or Serial, Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio is a riveting survey about one of storytelling’s most engrossing forms. Narrated and illustrated by Abel, Out on the Wire reveals how audio storytellers approach their creative process from beginning to end and why podcasting and radio continue to captivate listeners year after year. Whether you’re a podcaster, writer, or avid reader, Abel’s book will give you a deeper appreciation for all stories and their limitless potential to move us.
The Life of Frederick Douglass
David F. Walker
American icon, thinker, and abolitionist Frederick Douglass takes center stage in David F. Walker’s illuminating graphic novel biography. This timely celebration of one of history’s most prolific figures, The Life of Frederick Douglass guides readers through the pivotal moments of struggle and triumph that defined Douglass’ life. Through Walker, readers discover the man whose words and activism changed the course of history. The pages of this book are a necessary reminder of the power of resistance and using one’s voice.
Anne Frank's Diary: The Graphic Adaptation
The graphic adaptation of Anne Frank’s Diary breathes new life into an endlessly inspiring story of a young girl and her family’s fight for survival in the wake of Adolf Hitler’s fascism. Like her diary, Ari Folman and David Polonsky’s graphic reenvisioning of Frank’s life adds yet another dimension to her character. Each panel reveals the depth of her wisdom, the warmth of her joy, and the vulnerability of her candidness. Anne Frank’s Diary is a meaningful remembrance of a courageous young woman and her eternal story.
Che: A Revolutionary Life is a vivid adaptation of a mesmerizing biography of pivotal political figure. Immersive and enlightening, Jon Lee Anderson and José Hernández’s Che is an expansive and moving portrayal of everything that led to his political awakening rise as pivotal voice of the Cuban revolution. A tour-de-force of a biography, Thorough, enthralling, and unforgettable, Che is a testimony to the power that we as individuals possess. It is a testament to our ability to spark progress.
A new year often coincides with a new list of books to devour. If your 2019 resolution was to read more graphic narratives or you or your book club are still stressing over what to read next, you’re in luck. Consider our list of essential graphic novels and memoirs an answer to your literary prayers.
Featured image: Cover detail of Chicken with Plums by Marjane Satrapi