I started diving into graphic novels and comics last year. For the most part, I thought most or all graphic novels and comics fell in the realm of super heroes, fantasy, and or science fiction. As I kept exploring, I found graphic novels exploring powerful and haunting experiences, some based on true stories. I have come to love graphic novels and plan to feature more on my blog. For now, here is a list of five I thought were powerful and emotive.
Maus was the first non-fiction graphic novel I read and it changed my whole perspective on how graphic novels could be used to communicate emotions and experiences. Maus follows Vladek Spiegelman and his family through the horrors of the Holocaust, capturing powerful and intense emotions – fear, love, grief, and guilt to name a few. I also found the artwork unique and compelling – Art Spiegelman chose to draw the Jewish folks as mice and the Nazis as cats. Originally published as two volumes, I would recommend both without hesitation.
Another complete collection originally released as two volumes. Persepolis volume one is probably the most popular; however, I think readers need to invest the time in the complete collection. Marjane Satrapi illustrates and writes about her personal experience growing up in pre-revolution Iran, with her parents very involved in the Communist and Socialist movements. The story is powerful and candid with spots of humor and wit. I am awed at the detail and honesty Satrapi shares her experience in Iran and also when she is sent away by her parents. I think all readers need to pick up this graphic novel.
I have heard mixed reviews on this graphic novel but for me, American Born Chinese validates the struggle for racial and cultural identity in many Asian Pacific Islander (API) folks growing up in a predominantly White community. This story follows first generation American Jin Wang ‘Danny’ as he struggles to find his place at school where he is the only Chinese American student. This story is interwoven with two others: The Monkey King, an old Chinese fable where the monkey wants to become a God; and Chin-Kee, Danny’s cousin embodying all the negative API stereotypes. At the end, the stories turn out to be one in the same, connecting Danny’s fears, aspirations, dreams, and realities.
Another non-fiction work depicting Mine Okubo’s – one of hundreds of thousands of Japanese and Japanese American people sent to interment camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor – experiences in the relocation center in California and Utah. Her drawings perfectly capture her memories and different specific moments in the camps, giving the reader heartbreaking insight to life for Japanese descended people after Pearl Harbor. One of my favorite passages was depicting the questionnaire all folks in the camp had to take about their allegiance to Japan or America. Two-thirds of the people in the camp were American Citizens and the other one-third were being forced to be the enemy of to forsake their nationality. A powerful read for me because of my own family history and one I would recommend to you!
I love The Alchemist. It has been the classic novel I come back to time and time again and I still enjoy reading it. The story is still in tact even though it has been translated to a graphic novel and I still get the same feeling as the original book. My only criticism I have is the racial portrayal of the characters. Most folks seemed to have lighter skin tones overall, which turned me off a bit. The representation was okay – I am not saying every character looked western European – in opinion, the skin tones could be spot on. But I would have liked the artist to use a variety of skin tones that could be found in the regions at the time of the story.