Introduction

There’s something deeply appealing about learning someone’s personal story, and it can be comforting to find out we’re not alone. With their combined images and words, graphic memoirs can be deeply intimate and moving in a way different from prose. Because of the deep sense of connection they bring, graphic memoirs are extremely popular and can be a great way to introduce readers to graphic novels. This list highlights some titles that the No Flying, No Tights staff consider “hidden gems” of the graphic memoir genre. If you’re looking for some titles beyond March, Fun House, and Persepolis, read on!

A Game for Swallows

Zeina Abirached

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Zeina Abirached was born during the civil war in Lebanon. In this story, she describes how her neighbors sat with her and her brother while they waited for Zeina’s parents to return home from visiting her grandmother. With striking visuals, this is a unique addition that subtly shows the fraught situation of living in a warzone while also the community’s closeness. Readers who enjoy this should also check out Abirached's other memoir, I Remember Beirut.

Appeals to

Readers who enjoy quiet, subtle personal tales; readers who enjoyed the visuals of Persepolis

Creator Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: Lebanese

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: Lebanese
Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Almost American Girl

Robin Ha

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Robin has a good life in Korea; she is close to her mom, and she enjoys spending time with her friends as they explore their neighborhood and devour comics and television. When a vacation to Alabama turns into a permanent move, Robin finds herself cast into a world where everything is unfamiliar and she has very few allies and little support. This beautifully illustrated memoir is a bittersweet story about family, immigration, and personal growth.

Appeals to

Readers interested in immigrant stories, such as American Born Chinese and I Was Their American Dream

Creator Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 6858

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 5871
Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Dancing After Ten

Vivian Chong

Georgia Webber

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A sudden rare skin disease finds Vivian Chong abandoned by her friends in a hospital in a foreign country. Spreading scar tissue threatens her sight and hearing. Featuring art she made to document the changes in her life as she came to terms with the disabilities created by her condition, she rebuilds her life and brings her story to the stage.

Appeals to

Readers of Graphic Medicine and people interested in the drive of an artist.

Creator Identities:

  • Disability: 7060, 7207

Main Character Identities:

  • Disability: 5968
Recommended by

Sunny Carito

Dumbest Idea Ever

Jimmy Gownley

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The creator of the middle grade series Amelia Rules share the ups and downs, no matter how embarrassing, of going from being a basketball star at his private school to finding his niche making comics to sell to his classmates.

Appeals to

Fans of Raina Telgemeier, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and the Berrybrook Middle School series.

Recommended by

Sunny Carito

Fortune and Glory

Brian Michael Bendis

Brian Michael Bendis

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Brian Michael Bendis is not a hidden creator, as one of the major writers for Marvel and DC over the past decade, but this memoir, of his early days as a young, ambitious cartoonist trying to sell his comic noir title Torso to Hollywood for adaptation, is not as well know. It's hilarious and telling about the particular weirdness of making anything happen in Hollywood. As a look at how insular and befuddling to outsiders the movie industry can be, it's a smart and slightly surreal ride through the comics-to-movies pipeline.

Appeals to

Anyone who's ever dreamed of writing that great screenplay and pounding the pavement to get it made, as well as anyone who is curious about how the industry of movie-making can work (or not work, as the case may be.) This title will also appeal to anyone who enjoys entertaining memoirs with snappy dialog and a great sense of timing.

Content Notes

The audience is clearly adults, and there is some language, but nothing too explicit.

Recommended by

Robin Brenner

Gender Queer

Maia Kobabe

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In this memoir, Maia describes eir journey of figuring out eir identity as nonbinary and asexual. From crushes to physical presentation, Maia covers it all in a warm, reflective style.

Appeals to

Readers looking for nonbinary and/or asexual creators; readers exploring their sexual or gender identity; readers interested in learning more about gender identity, but don't want to read a bunch of theory!

Content Notes

Sex scene; some nudity; dysphoria

Creator Identities:

  • Sexuality: 7026
  • Gender Identity: Nonbinary

Main Character Identities:

  • Sexuality: 5368
  • Gender Identity: 5370
Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Kimiko Does Cancer

Kimiko Tobimatsu

Keet Geniza

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In her own words: “There’s not a lot of writing out there on cancer and disability. Maybe because for those of us who are now cancer-free, the ongoing symptoms are after-effects (of surgery, radiation, meds), not the result of disease still being present. Or maybe it’s because the mainstream cancer narrative is about overcoming adversity, not about experiencing ongoing disability” (92).

Highly relatable to any one who has looked cancer in the face as a participant or an observer. Delves into issues not usually discussed but are very relevant and relatable.

Appeals to

LGBTQ
Cancer Patients
Graphic Medicine
Older teens
Adults

Creator Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 6745, 6858
  • Sexuality: 7029
  • Disability: 7067

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 5927, 5871
  • Sexuality: 5363
Recommended by

Gail de Vos

Marbles

Rachel Lindsay

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Rachel Lindsay works for a pharmaceutical advertising company in order to have insurance to treat her bipolar disorder. When she is assigned to an account for antidepressants, her dual life as patient and employee weighs on her until ultimately she is committed. Lindsay’s gripping artwork and narrative are electrifying and often humorous, and her experience as an advertiser and patient makes for a unique perspective into mental illness and its related systems.

Appeals to

Fans of graphic medicine; readers who enjoyed Marbles; readers who are looking for a memoir that goes outside the usual discussions of mental health

Content Notes

Portrayal of descent into madness; language; some nudity;

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness

Kabi Nagata

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In My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, Nagata Kabi tells the story of her struggles with depression, sexuality, and intimacy. In an attempt to make progress and prove herself, she arranges a meeting with a sex worker. With evocative illustrations and candid discussion, this is a read that will get you thinking about intimacy, social expectations, all those things that make life confusing, hard, and wonderful!

Readers who enjoy this should also check out My Solo Exchange Diary, which continues Nagata's story.

Appeals to

Millennials and others who are asking themselves similar questions; fans of memoirs that frankly discuss mental health like Marbles and RX.

Content Notes

Mental illness, sex, nudity, and disordered eating are all frankly portrayed

Creator Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 6849
  • Sexuality: 7029

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 5397
  • Sexuality: 5363
Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Spellbound

Bishakh Som

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This memoir follows a transgender artist through her life as she sees herself. She doesn't like to draw herself so she introduces the reader to Anjali, a cisgender Bengali American woman in place of a self portrait. She quits her stable job in order to write a graphic novel and we follow her through her creative process and self exploration.

Appeals to

Those interested in self-exploration, cultural identity, and the creative process.

Creator Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 6832
  • Gender Identity: Trans

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 6004
  • Gender Identity: 5929
Recommended by

Martha Boksenbaum

That Can Be Arranged

Huda Fahmy

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A hilarious look into the world of arranged marriages, from the perspective of a woman who is glad her marriage was arranged. She lets us into her every day life with comics about her path to marriage, expectations from her family, and what Americans think her life is like as a Muslim woman.

Appeals to

Fans of slice of life, memoir, and humorous comics.

Creator Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 6782
  • Religion: 7195

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 6567
  • Religion: 5804
Recommended by

Martha Boksenbaum

The Fire Never Goes Out

Noelle Stevenson

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Nimona and Lumberjanes creator Noelle Stevenson tells their story of hitting success young, finding love, and figuring out how to live without crashing and burning. A mix of prose, comics, and images, this is a messy, lovely look at a life and the lessons learned so far.

Appeals to

Fans of Stevenson’s work; creators and others who are trying to figure themselves out.

Content Notes

Mental illness

Creator Identities:

  • Sexuality: 7029
  • Gender Identity: Nonbinary

Main Character Identities:

  • Sexuality: 5363
Recommended by

Megan Rupe

The Times I Knew I Was Gay

Eleanor Crewes

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A funny and honest self portrait of a woman getting to know herself. Rather than a "coming out story" this memoir is a chronicle of the different moments that make up an identity with the recognition that there isn't one coming out moment, but in many moments throughout one's life.

Appeals to

Fans of stories searching for identity and truth. Those who enjoy slice of life, memoir, and humor.

Creator Identities:

  • Sexuality: 7029

Main Character Identities:

  • Sexuality: 5363
Recommended by

Martha Boksenbaum

We Served the People

Emei Burell

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During the Cultural Revolution, urban teenagers were sent to rural areas in order to work on the state farms. Emei Burell’s mother Yuan was one of those rusticated youth. Using a mix of artwork and photographs, Burrell takes the reader through her mother’s time on the farm and the struggle to achieve her personal goals after she returns home. This is a quiet story of strength and determination you won’t want to miss.

Appeals to

Readers interested in Chinese history; readers who enjoy historical biographies and memoirs such as Maus and They Called Us Enemy.

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 5453
Recommended by

Megan Rupe

  • Megan

    | She/Her

    Features Writer

    Megan earned her MLIS from Simmons College and is currently the evening librarian at Bay State College in Massachusetts. She satisfies her voracious appetite for graphic novels and manga through regular visits to her local public libraries and puts her love of graphic novels to good use by adding to Bay State’s collection whenever possible. Megan maintains a personal blog, Ferret with a Strobe Light, where she discusses awesome books she’s read lately. When not engaged in reading or library work, she likes running, drinking tea, and working on her own stories and art.

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  • Martha

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, William Hall Branch of the Cranston Public Library

    Features Editor

    Martha Boksenbaum is Youth Services Librarian for the Youth Services Librarian for the William Hall Library of the Cranston Public Library. She purchases graphic novels, comics and anime for children and teens, and runs a manga and anime club for teens. She has served on ALA’s Graphic Novels and Comics Roundtable (GNCRT) Conference Committee and is currently a Member-at-Large for the GNCRT. She has also served on YALSA’s Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers Selection Committee. She works every day to champion graphic novels, manga and anime from her small library branch, and tries to keep up with the amazing number of comics being published today.

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  • Mariela

    | She/Her High School Librarian

    Editor

    Mariela Siegert is a high school librarian who thinks she has more than 24 hours in a day. She loves to read Children and YA books, but she has a soft spot in her heart for different formats such as audiobooks, comics, and graphic novels. When she is not trying to convince kids to read, she adjuncts at Dominican University where she teaches a technology class for future librarians. Mariela is also involved with her state school library organization (AISLE), AASL, YALSA, GNCRT, and she is a board member for the Rebecca Caudill which is an Illinois state book award. You can follow her at @marris116

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