By Spencer Stevens
Graphic novels bridge the gap between comics and novels. Cartoonist Will Eisner popularized the term “graphic novel” in the 1970s, but the true heyday of graphic novels began in the 1980s with books like Maus, Watchmen, and darker, lengthier Batman comics. Today, the graphic novel genre is diverse: authors still write fictional stories, but rising in popularity are graphic memoirs, biographies, and general nonfiction reads. Here are eight graphic novels from the Northborough Free Library’s Adult Collection that we recommend (click the pictures for links to the catalog!):
Maus by Art Spiegelman – Maus recounts the experiences of Spiegelman’s father, who was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. Maus depicts the Nazis as cats and Holocaust victims as mice. Spiegelman’s graphic novel is a haunting reimagination of one of history’s darkest periods. Maus remains the only graphic novel to receive the Pulitzer Prize. Maus, alongside earlier graphic novels by Will Eisner, marked graphic novels as a legitimate, respectable form of adult literature.
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel – Alison Bechdel’s relationship with her father is central to the plot in this “tragicomic.” We explore this complex relationship from Alison’s point of view as a child, as a young adult, and as an older adult. Bechdel reminisces about discovering her homosexuality, discovering her father’s concealed sexuality, and her father’s early death. Fun Home is a moving, heartbreaking exploration of the relationship between father and daughter.
Fire!!: The Zora Neale Hurston Story by Peter Bagge – Zora Neale Hurston is best known for her book Their Eyes Were Watching God and the recent posthumous publication Barracoon. In this colorful, cartoonishly illustrated graphic biography, Peter Bagge shows us Zora’s vibrant personality and the tragedies that she overcame before becoming one of America’s most well-known authors of the Harlem Renaissance.
Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green – In this hand-drawn graphic memoir, Katie Green relives her experience of suffering and recovering from an eating disorder. Her memoir combines text and simple yet striking illustrations to show her battle with her body image and the rising threat of the “shadow” within her.
March, Volumes 1-3 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell – In this trilogy, Congressman John Lewis recounts his days in the Civil Rights Movement. March covers Lewis’ participation in various sit-ins, the Selma to Montgomery march, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Lewis also covers the influence of people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and President Barack Obama on Black people in America. With illustrations based on historic photographs, March is a modern, accessible look at Civil Rights in the 1960s.
My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris – Set in 1960s Chicago, My Favorite Thing is Monsters is a gripping murder mystery told in illustrated form. Ten-year-old Karen attempts to solve the murder of her neighbor, and we follow her story and those of people around her. With illustrations inspired by 1950s-1960s B-movies, My Favorite Thing is Monsters was nominated for several awards and has become a modern classic.
Sabrina by Nick Drnaso – Sabrina came out earlier in 2018 and is the only book ever to be nominated for the Man Booker Prize. A Chicago woman named Sabrina goes missing, only for a video of her murder to surface and become viral on the internet and the news. Conspiracy theories about her murder erupt: people claim the video is fake and that Sabrina’s grieving family members are crisis actors. This important and timely graphic novel questions the influence of fake news on our society and the power of the internet to amplify conspiracies.
The Graphic Canon, Volumes 1-3 edited by Russ Kick – If you don’t have the patience to read Homer’s Odyssey or can’t find the time to work through the complete works of Shakespeare, this graphic novel trilogy is perfect for you! The Graphic Canon is a three-volume set of the world’s most beloved novels, poems, epics, and plays in graphic novel form. Each entry has a different author and illustrator. From Gilgamesh to Homer to Voltaire to Emily Dickinson to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The Graphic Canon offers a little bit of world literature in an updated, artistic form.