Hidden Gems: Adaptations and Retellings

Introduction

Graphic Novels are a great way to make literary text more accessible and approachable, especially for folks who might otherwise struggle with a dense text. There are also a number of comics out there that put a new spin on a classic tale. Below are our picks of graphic novel adaptations or retellings that you may have missed!

Brave New World: A Graphic Novel

Aldous Huxley

Fred Fordham

Cover Image

This adaption of Brave New World takes a dystopian tale that feels as prescient now as it did when Huxley originally wrote it and adds Fred Fordham's cinematic visuals to give this story new life. With an art style that feels like classic sci-fi without feeling dated, this adaption will appeal to both graphic novel fans and lovers of the original novel.

Appeals to

Sci-fi/dystopia fans looking to see this classic novel in a new light.

Content Notes

Violence. Nudity and sexual situations.

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Dune: The Graphic Novel

Frank Herbert

Raúl Allén

Cover Image

With Dune Part Two just released in theaters, this is a perfect time to check out the official graphic novel adaption. This adaption was done by Frank Herbert's son with the help of prolific SFF author Kevin J. Anderson. This adaption brings Herbert's vast deserts of Arrakis and water water-covered surface of Caladan to life, with a desire to keep to close to the source material as possible. The third and final volume of this adaption will be released in July 2024.

Appeals to

Those looking to revisit Hebert's rich world, or those looking to experience it for the first time will find something worthwhile in this adaption.

Content Notes

Violence. Depictions of war and political assassinations.

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

M is for Monster

Talia Dutton

Cover Image

Consider if Frankenstein was a story featuring a more diverse cast and did more to discuss the problems of holding on to the past and embracing change. Also, there's a ghost in this one. M wakes up not knowing she's supposed to be Maura, sister to the doctor who just revived her and fellow scientist. Unfortunately, M is not Maura, even with Maura's ghost following her and her sister trying to encourage old memories and habits to return.

Appeals to

This comic would be an ideal pick for readers who like a tinge of horror in their comics while also exploring topics of identity and expression, like Blackwater or Hollow, even readers of Nimona though of course there are minimal fantasy elements in M is for Monster.

Content Notes

Mild body horror

Creator Identities:

Chinese-American |

Queer |

Main Character Identities:

Assumed Asian |

Lesbian, Queer |

Nonbinary |

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Poems to See By

Julian Peters

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In an unusual take on the idea of adaptation, Julian Peters tackled the task of taking poetry and creating comics from them. Each poem gets a distinct visual style to help tell the story, often pulling from the context of each poem (things like time period and poet's culture) to really cement the visual language being used to convey the text. It's a comic absolutely worth flipping through, picking a different comic/poem to study each time.

Appeals to

Poems to See By would make an excellent teaching text for parents or school librarians, since again there's so much to pull from to help students understand both comics and poetry, but it's also a great way to help introduce a child or teen to some of the great poets, using the visual element as a way to help understand some of the more difficult poetic language.

Content Notes

Some violence and blood, depictions of war and death

Creator Identities:

Canadian, Italian |

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Prince of Cats

Ron Wimberley

Cover Image

Consider if Romeo & Juliet was retold from Tybalt's perspective, and also set in a hip-hop-inspired 80s style backdrop. That would be Prince of Cats, a comic awash in pinks, purples, and blues, combining the original lines of the play with more modern references but keeping to iambic pentameter. Of course, because it follows Tybalt the story ends a bit sooner than the classic play, but giving Tybalt his moment in the limelight really brings perspective and sympathy to his role, and maybe explains more fully just why he's called The Prince of Cats.

Appeals to

Having context from reading and enjoying Romeo & Juliet or one of its many adaptations can help and would certainly make this comic a good choice for those readers, but the comic is enjoyable without that. The art and the way the lines interweave Shakespearean English with much more recent forms of the language make it a great choice for anyone who enjoys that kind of play in language or an unusual take on comic art.

Content Notes

Some violence and blood.

Creator Identities:

Black |

Main Character Identities:

Assumed Black |

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Sapiens: A Graphic History

Yuval Noah Harari

David VanderMeulen

Cover Image

In this graphic novel adaption of New York Times Best Seller "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind", author and historian Yuval Noah Harari becomes a character in their books, guiding us through the rise of Homo Sapiens as the only human species left on earth by explaining the big questions the book grapples with to his niece, with the help of other researchers who also appear in the book and more symbolic characters like Dr. Fiction and a "cave people" couple that show some of our false ideas about how early human's live. The third installment of this series will be released in October 2024.

Appeals to

Those interested in history, anthropology, or just wondered how humans as a race went from hunting large game in nomadic tribes to where we are today.

Content Notes

Brief discussion of cannibalism. Discussion of killing of the old and disabled, killing small children, ritual killings.

Creator Identities:

Israeli |

Main Character Identities:

Assumed Asian, Assumed Black, Assumed East Asian |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Slaughterhouse-Five: The Graphic Novel

Kurt Vonnegut

Albert Monteys

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In this humble features writer's opinion, there is not a book more ripe for a graphic novel adaption than Slaughterhouse-Five. With a main character described as "unstuck in time," it is easy to get lost in this non-linear narrative. See the juxtaposition of the different scenes of Billy Pilgrim's life smashed together on the page is a real delight, even if many moments of Billy's life are anything but delightful. Readers will experience time as Billy does as they make their way through this graphic novel.

Appeals to

For all Vonnegut lovers, an adaptation that the creator himself would have been delighted to see.

Content Notes

War and violence. Course language. Sexual situations. Discussions of death.

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Hidden Gems: history

Introduction

In this latest installment of Hidden Gems, the Features Team has pulled together a list of history comics. We hope this list will introduce some unknown historical figures and titles that you may have missed.

Bomb: The Race to Build -- And Steal -- The World's Most Dangerous Weapon

Steve Sheinkin

Nick Bertozzi

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In this graphic adaptation of the novel of the same name, Bertozzi and Sheinkin work to emphasize the danger to all involved and the horror of so many parts of the process of creating the atomic bomb. The comic includes perspectives from other countries and breaks down some of the complex espionage that was so much a part of this story and includes a page at the end discussing where some of the major players went after 1950.

Appeals to

A recent movie release might be increasing interest in learning about the atomic bomb, and Bomb is a great way to start their research with something more simplified that still gets a lot of the story across effectively. It's also a good way to help younger readers start to understand the complexity of this moment in history; when they're ready they can then read the novel this is based on, which goes into more depth on aspects of the story.

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Ms. Davis: A Graphic Biography

Sybille Titeux de la Croix

Cover Image

In a saturated art style that harkens back to the golden age of comics, French cartooning duo Améziane and Titeux de la Croix tell the story of Angela Davis, scholar, and political activist for the rights of black Americans. They begin by describing Angela's roots, growing up in Birmingham, Alabama and the novel culminates with her wrongful imprisonment for her suspected involvement in the 1971 Marin County courtroom gunfight and the fight by her and other activists to get her out of prison. This graphic novel shows why Ms. Davis's name should be on the lips of all who want to discuss those who fought to bring about justice for Black America.

Appeals to

Fans of Améziane and Titeux de la Croix's Muhammad Ali will love this new addition to their chronicling of Black leaders.

Content Notes

Gun Violence, Racism, Discussions of conditions in the US prison system

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Queer As All Get Out: 10 People Who've Inspired Me

Shelby Criswell

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Cartoonist Shelby Criswell introduces the reader to ten queer historical figures that have inspired them. As they introduce the reader to more famous figures such as Pauli Murray and Dr. Magnus Hirschfield as well as individuals barely present in the historical record, Criswell reflects on their own journey and the state of queer rights.

Appeals to

Readers looking for an uplifting look at queer historical figures should pick this up. Another plus is that Criswell incorporates a range of nationalities and queer identities, so this is a great read for people who want to learn about non-American queer historical figures!

Content Notes

Mentions of trauma around racism, homophobia, and anti-queer bigotry come up, but Criswell generally keeps things positive and does not dwell on negative images. There is also some violence in some of the chapters and brief nudity intended to humiliate a queer person (although nothing is really visible).

Creator Identities:

Queer |

Main Character Identities:

African-American, Black |

Queer |

Trans |

First Nations or Indigenous |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Strange Fruit: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History

Joel Christian Gill

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A Black Union soldier rescues his child from slavery. Bass Reeves was one of the United States' most skilled marshals. These are just a few of the stories from Black history that Joel Christian Gill covers in his collection, Strange Fruit. With humor and expressive, impactful artwork, Gill brings to life these relatively unknown stories of African American success and triumph in the face of great adversity.

Appeals to

Teenage and adult readers who are interested in lesser-known American history and positive Black representation will find much to enjoy here.

Content Notes

Racism; violence

Creator Identities:

African-American |

Main Character Identities:

Black |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler

John Hendrix

Cover Image

In a dangerous and unjust situation, how should individuals of faith respond? That is the question German priest Dietrich Bonhoeffer must answer when confronted with Adolf Hitler and his atrocities. Vividly drawn and richly researched, illustrator John Hendrix traces Bonhoeffer's personal journey and eventual involvement in the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler.

Appeals to

Readers looking for historical stories of resistance will find much to enjoy here.

Content Notes

Discussion of death and violence, but little actual violent imagery--Hendrix relies a lot on powerful symbolic imagery to tell Bonhoeffer's story and discuss the historical elements.

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

This Place: 150 Years Retold

Alicia Elliott

Natasha Donovon

Cover Image

Reconsider the last 150 years of Canadian history through an Indigenous lens with This Place, and not just one tribe but Métis, Inuit, Dene, Cree, Anishinaabe, Mi’kmaq, and Haudenosaunee perspectives. Each comic takes a different point in history and zooms in, focusing on a particular person or moment, whether external or internal, giving context the history books likely aren't. There's also a bibliography and works cited in the back of the book, for readers interested in taking deeper dives into these moments.

Appeals to

Readers who prefer nonfiction and are getting into comics may find this an approachable way to start, since it is an anthology so each story is told by a different author and artist or art style, so if they don't love one they can move on to another. Readers who already enjoy graphic memoirs will appreciate this entry into the world of nonfiction comics that while still giving a personal perspective, is less focused on one person's story and is instead the chorus of many voices on a similar topic. Also, feels like required purchasing for any school library in North America, to make sure students are getting as many perspectives on what they're learning as possible.

Creator Identities:

Anisinaabe, Cree, Dene, Haudenosaunee, Inuit, Metis, Mi'gmaq |

Anisinaabe, Cree, Dene, Haudenosaunee, Inuit, Metis, Mi'gmaq |

Main Character Identities:

Anisinaabe, Cree, Dene, Inuit, Metis, Mi'gmaq |

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Tokyo Rose-Zero Hero: A Japanese American Woman's Persecution and Ultimate Redemption after World War II

Andre Frattino

Kate Kasenow

Cover Image

If you were stranded in an enemy country, what would you do? Iva Toguri was forced to remain in Japan after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. She refused to renounce her American partnership, and she put a defiant spin on her role as one of the women known as Tokyo Rose, a radio personality intended to demoralize American soldiers fighting the Japanese. When she returned to the United States, Iva was tried for treason.

Appeals to

Readers interested in stories of ordinary people confronting injustice and difficult odds should pick up Tokyo Rose.

Content Notes

Use of a racial slur

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Victory. Stand!: Raising My Fist for Justice

Tommie Smith

Cover Image

This graphic memoir tells the story of Tommie Smith, who at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City decided to peacefully protest the treatment of black athletes and black Americans as a whole. This narrative covers Tommie's rise to fame as a track star, his path to the '68 Olympics, and the fallout from his discussion to protest.

Appeals to

Sports fans, young activists, and fans of graphic memoirs will find something to enjoy here.

Content Notes

Racism

Creator Identities:

African-American |

Main Character Identities:

African-American |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts

Rebecca Hall

Hugo Martinez

Cover Image

In this compelling graphic novel, historian Rebecca Hall describes her experiences tracking down the history of women-led slave revolts. Readers follow Rebecca's journey as she struggles to locate resources and reconstruct these brave Black women's stories all the while wrestling with the slave trade's legacy.

Appeals to

Readers who are interested in "hidden" history and the process of researching and reconstructing history will be engaged with Wake. Readers who are interested in stories of Black resistance and the legacy of slavery will also want to read this as well.
Teaching resources and lesson plans are available on Rebecca Hall's website, https://rebhallphd.org/

Content Notes

Frank discussion and portrayal of slavery and the slave trade and the resulting emotional trauma; the portrayal of violence

Creator Identities:

African-American |

Main Character Identities:

Black |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

We Served the People: My Mother's Stories

Emei Burell

Cover Image

Emei Burell's mother was sixteen when she was sent to the countryside as part of China's Down to the Countryside Movement. In We Served the People, Burell shares her mother's stories of life during Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution--including working in the countryside before finally returning to her hometown, Beijing, to navigate complicated social pressures and work dynamics and fight for the education she desperately wanted.

Appeals to

We Served the People will appeal to teen and adult readers looking for stories about the Cultural Revolution and/or stories of women who overcame the odds.

Creator Identities:

Swedish |

Main Character Identities:

Chinese |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Yummy: A History of Desserts

Victoria Grace Elliott

Cover Image

Peri, a sprite with a passion for food and excitement for the history of it, guides the reader through the history of some of the most popular desserts with the help of some of her fellow sprites. They wander through each dessert, providing commentary and looking into myths surrounding the desserts, giving readers a wider perspective of where modern desserts came from and how things can happen simultaneously across the world. It's cute, fun, and even has kid-friendly recipes.

Appeals to

Yummy is such a fun comic for young readers, making history approachable and a little silly as well as hands-on since they can try making things they're reading about. This would be a great choice for school libraries, as it could be used in history and science classrooms potentially, or for in-library programs partnering with those classes. It's not comprehensive, but it doesn't try to be; Yummy is focused on a few iconic desserts, and it does that well.

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Staff Picks: Hidden Gems Science

Introduction

We’ve probably all seen the Science Comics series and the Manga Guides, but did you know there were so many more options out there for nonfiction comics about science? Included in this list are biographies, comics about chemistry, biology, and even the science of surfing. So pick up one of these hidden gems and learn a little more about a topic you maybe hadn’t considered reading on before.

Cells at Work

Akane Shimizu

Cover Image

Join the adventures of an anthropomorphic red blood cell and her new friend, a white blood cell. Over the course of the series, the cells handle bacterial and viral invasions, cancer, injuries, and more!

Appeals to

Readers looking for a light fun read that incorporates some good science as well!

Content Notes

Some gore

Creator Identities:

Japanese |

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth

Jay Hosler

Kevin Cannon

Cover Image

Bloort, a scientist from an alien race, regales his king and prince with the history of life on Earth. With clear explanations, excellent illustrations, and a dash of humor, Evolution: the Story of Life on earth is a natural selection for school library and public library science collections.

Appeals to

Teen and adult readers looking for a fun and accessible explanation of evolution

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

How to Fake a Moon Landing

Darryl Cunningham

Cover Image

Learn about the origins and fallacies behind some of the most well-known conspiracy theories like: climate change, the moon landing, vaccines causing autism, and whether evolution is real. These comics are short, kind of like short stories covering each conspiracy theory, but filled with good facts that make it easy to understand just why these theories are wrong, as well as a bibliography in the back.

Appeals to

Great for anyone wanting to better understand what leads people to believe conspiracy theories, and for those who want to know more on how to combat the misguided thinking behind them.

Content Notes

Though the creator presents these conspiracy theories frankly and with some humor, it can still be upsetting to read about some of the topics discussed.

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Rainbow the Koala

Remy Lai

Cover Image

Young animal lovers will eat up this narative about a baby koala named Rainbow that teaches them about the life of a koala in the wild and the impacts that bushfires have had on their habitat. The end of the graphic novel included details about the real life event that inspired the book as well as additional information about koalas and where they live.

Appeals to

Kids who can't get enough of animal books will love Rainbow the Koala.

Creator Identities:

Indonesian |

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Seen: Rachel Carson

Birdie Willis

Rii Abrego

Cover Image

While not necessarily an ideal choice for a casual reader, this graphic novel is an excellent choice for school libraries because it's geared towards being used as a teaching text. Rachel Carson's story is told clearly and simply, and there are tons of great resources at the back to guide discussion and with further resources to help build lessons.

Appeals to

This is a great pick for school librarians looking for more approachable teaching texts, or for tween readers who want to start learning about Rachel Carson with an approachable text.

Creator Identities:

Latine |

Queer |

Nonbinary |

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

The Science of Surfing

Kim Dwinell

Cover Image

Two surf enthastist, Sam and Jade, share their love of the ocean in this nonfiction addition to the Surfside Girl series. In this graphic novel they cover the physics that makes the ocean moves, facts about the creatures that live in the ocean, and lesson on how to surf! Whether you like the ocean for it's sea creatures or it's sick waves, you'll find something to love about this book.

Appeals to

All ocean lovers will learn something new from this book packed with facts the deep blue sea.

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Two Heads

Uta Frith

Daniel Locke

Cover Image

In this lively and engaging graphic novel, scientists Uta and Chris Frith take the reader through the research on the human brain and how human brains affect interactions. The writing in this book is excellent--the explanations are delivered well--with illustrations that convey information and humor--and show strong synthesis of the topic while also driving home the point that science is about finding and answering new questions and verifying results.

Appeals to

Older teen and adult readers interested in psychology and human interaction will want to dive into this well-researched comic

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Wonderful Life with the Elements

Bunpei Yorifuji

Cover Image

Looking to learn about the periodic table, but struggling through dry texts? Try this comic! Each element has a personality, and the creator ties the study of the elements back to our daily lives as well. There's also a bonus section in the back covering minerals and how they affect the body.

Appeals to

While this is obviously handy for students of chemistry trying to find another way to memorize elements, it's also written in such a way that anyone who wants to learn more about the units that make up our world can come away having learned something and had fun doing it.

Content Notes

Though it's not graphic, the elements are generally portrayed as male-bodied people with genitalia. It serves more as humor than anything else, but it is present.

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Hidden Gems: Book Club Titles

Introduction

Book clubs can be a source of intellectual stimulation and community, and many people enjoy book clubs for the opportunity to get together with others to read something different and thought-provoking. Graphic novels can be a great addition to any book club’s book rotation. The staff at No Flying, No Tights has compiled this list of book club titles that you may have missed.

Banned Book Club

Hyun Sook Kim

Ko Hyung-Ju

Cover Image

When Hyun Sook joined the Banned Books Club at her college in South Korea in the 1980's, she just loved reading and thought it would be a nice way to make friends. Soon she finds out the club was a way for students to hide their rebellion against state censorship and her eyes are opened to the anti-intellectual totalitarian politics in her country. There's tons to talk about here whether it be history, politics, intellectual freedom, or coming of age.

Appeals to

Fans of history and politics, anyone who enjoyed Persepolis and Maus.

Creator Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 6967

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 5737
Recommended by

Martha Boksenbaum

Beetle and the Hollowbones

Aliza Layne

Cover Image

Although a Stonewall Honor Book, I feel like I haven't heard anyone talking about this lovely look into bullying, LGBT+ themes, and friendships. The Halloween-esque characters and colors are mesmerizing and work to enhance the story while world-building and showing character growth.

Appeals to

Tweens and teens that want positive LGBT+ representation (specifically f/f romance and agender).

Main Character Identities:

  • Sexuality: 5363
Recommended by

Liz Hollendonner

Erased

Kei Sanbe

Cover Image

What if you could go back in time to save someone's life, but at the risk of your own? Satoru faces this question thanks to his "Revival" power which allows him to travel back to moments before someone is likely to die. Returning home and finding his mother left for dead, Satoru's conscience travels back not mere moments before her attack but instead 18 years into his childhood body. Aware of his predicament, Satoru realizes he has a chance to save one of his childhood friends who went missing all these years ago and maybe get clues as to who attacked his mom in the present.

Appeals to

Should appeal to fans of time travel and alternate timelines, mysteries and murder, and some emotional gut punches.

Content Notes

Some blood and violence, child endangerment, death, and sexual assault is hinted at.

Recommended by

Kris Ritchie

Fault Lines in the Constitution

Cynthia Levinson

Ally Shwed

Cover Image

This accessible introduction to the creation of the Constitution tells the story of its creation and explains its rules and their effects on the people of the United States. It also compares the United States system to other countries and asks what could be done to better represent the people who live here and give them better lives.

Appeals to

Fault Lines in the Constitution would be ideal for groups exploring civic, political, or social justice themes. Groups might consider pairing this book with an activist’s memoir (for example, March) or a book that covers a social justice topic (for example, They Called Us Enemy or Redress: The Inside Story of the Successful Campaign for Japanese-Americans by John Tateishi).

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Flamer

Mike Curato

Cover Image

Aiden is at summer camp and trying to deny that he's gay while he navigates body image, anti-gay microaggressions from bullies, and a crush on his friend. If he comes out at camp will the other boys shun or hurt him? Aiden spends the summer trying to decide whether he can be himself at camp or if his journey of self-acceptance will have to stay internal.

Appeals to

Those who like to read stories about coming of age, LGTBQIA+ people, and summer camp in the 90's.

Content Notes

The story centers on homophobic jokes, slurs, and includes some thoughts about self harm.

Creator Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 6797
  • Sexuality: 7028

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 6573
  • Sexuality: 5362
Recommended by

Martha Boksenbaum

Go With the Flow

Lily Williams

Lily Williams

Cover Image

Abby, Brit, Christine, and Sasha go to a high school that would rather make sure the football team stays well-funded than provide enough pads and tampons in the girl's bathroom. Disgruntled at a system that does not prioritize students' health and petrifies at even the word "period," this band of friends starts a movement to make their voices heard and fight for a basic need. This comic employs a diverse amount of experiences when it comes to periods, as each girl in the main group has a different relationship with it, one having endometriosis and another that is starting her first cycle. Other than breaking barriers in the way of approaching the taboo subject of "women's" health in an open setting, the comic also displays examples of activism and empowerment.

Appeals to

Adolescents that are experiencing the beginnings of menstruation and looking for texts to relate to that go beyond nonfiction informational and instructional materials. Book Clubs may find the book appealing as a gateway to discussing activism, health issues, and stigmas surrounding taboo subjects. The comic may appeal to readers who enjoy a fast-paced, humorous read about friends coming together for a common cause.

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 5974
  • Sexuality: 5363, 5366
Recommended by

Robin Eyman

Green River Killer

Jeff Jensen

Jonathan Case

Cover Image

Tom Jensen, a detective for the King County Sheriff’s Department, has caught the Green River Killer in Seattle. Now he must try to get into the head of this serial killer to find the remains of his many victims so that the families can have closure. The author is able to get into the heart of this story because the detective is his father!

Appeals to

True Crime enthusiasts, non-fiction lovers, and those fascinated by the human psyche.

Recommended by

Mariela Siegert

Heathen

Natasha Alterici

Cover Image

Aydis' father had two choices when she is caught kissing another girl from the village they live in. Marry her off or kill her. He chooses to kill her, but he really helps her escape. Aydis, a Viking in her own right, is now set on killing the god-king Odin with help from her horse Saga to free a mighty Valkyrie that she may be in love with.

Appeals to

Those interested in Viking stories, strong females, Norse mythology, and epic tales with an LGBTQ+ twist.

Creator Identities:

  • Sexuality: 7031

Main Character Identities:

  • Sexuality: 5366
Recommended by

Mariela Siegert

Incognegro

Mat Johnson

Warren Pleece

Cover Image

Incognegro. Where an African-American could pass as white. Reporters who could go incognegro would take the dangerous assignments to report on the lynchings in the south. Zane, a reporter from New York has to 'pass' long enough to get to the bottom of a story where his own brother is wrongfully being charged for killing a white woman.

Appeals to

Those interested in the darker side of American history and people fighting back in quieter resistance style ways.

Creator Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 6704

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 5974
Recommended by

Mariela Siegert

Measuring Up

Lily LaMotte

Ann Xu

Cover Image

Cici just moved from Taiwan to Seattle, and she misses her grandmother A-Ma and wants her to visit but her parents say they can't afford it. So she enters a kid's cooking competition to try to win money for a plane ticket. There's just one problem: she only knows how to cook Taiwanese food. Can she win the competition without knowing how to cook western cuisine? There's lots for any group to discuss here from immigration and identity to favorite foods and cooking shows.

Appeals to

Fans of cooking shows, realistic fiction, and memoir-style comics for kids like Smile and Roller Girl.

Creator Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 6983

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 6644
Recommended by

Martha Boksenbaum

Red Panda and Moon Bear

Jarod Rosello

Cover Image

Red Panda and Moon Bear are a sibling pair having adventures and battling supernatural threats in their urban community. They rescue lost cats, fight bullies, and make sure to get home before Mami and Papi do. Groups talking about this book might wonder just what really happens and how much of it is imagination, or talk about the community they live in and how adventures in a city might be different than suburban or rural places.

Appeals to

Fans of Saturday morning cartoons, justice winning the day, and sibling adventure stories.

Creator Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 6765

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 6561
Recommended by

Martha Boksenbaum

RX

Rachel Lindsay

Cover Image

Rachel Lindsay holds an advertising job with a pharmaceutical company in order to have health insurance--which is essential for managing her bipolar disorder. However, working on an account for the very medication she takes pushes her to the brink until she is committed.

Appeals to

Groups interested in experiences of managing mental illness within the US healthcare system and society.

Content Notes

Portrayal of downward spiral; hospitalization; swearing; nudity

Creator Identities:

    Recommended by

    Megan Rupe

    Save it For Later

    Nate Powell

    Cover Image

    The artist for the critically acclaimed March ruminates on parenting and protest in these illustrated essays. While Powell does take a technically more liberal view, he wrestles with the injustice and toxicity in American white culture in a way that is open and nuanced.

    Appeals to

    This book would be an interesting discussion book for adults who are also parents or asking similar questions about their role in the problems that plague the United States.

    Recommended by

    Megan Rupe

    Shadow Life

    Hiromi Gato

    Ann Xu

    Cover Image

    Kimiko flees her nursing home to find a place of her own. Yet a shadow of death follows her to her new home, making her struggle to live her life that much more difficult.

    Appeals to

    Readers who like magical realism and want to explore life (and death) as we age.

    Content Notes

    Some nudity; violence; mental deterioration

    Creator Identities:

    • Race and/or Nationality: 7130

    Main Character Identities:

    • Race and/or Nationality: 5397
    • Sexuality: 5364
    Recommended by

    Megan Rupe

    Skim

    Mariko Tamaki

    Jillian Tamaki

    Cover Image

    In the wake of the suicide of a popular kid in her high school, Skim feels increasingly alienated from her classmates. This quick read touches on mental health issues, queerness and homophobia, religion, relationships with inappropriate power dynamics, and more. The art is incredibly meaningful; it is influenced by traditional Japanese woodblock art, and every full-page spread makes unconventional use of panels and perspective to add to the story.

    Appeals to

    Queer book clubs, teens, and anyone who liked the Tamaki cousins' This One Summer.

    Creator Identities:

    • Race and/or Nationality: 7130
    • Sexuality: 7029

    Main Character Identities:

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

    Shira Pilarski

    Strong Female Protagonist

    Brennan Lee Mulligan

    Molly Ostertag

    Cover Image

    After a mysterious event grants individuals superheroes, the world becomes full of heroes but things are still a mess. Allison-a girl gifted with invulnerability and super strength-- leaves the hero game to enter college. Her journey intertwines and clashes with others as she looks for her way to make a difference.

    Appeals to

    Fans of the superhero genre will like this, and it should also appeal to readers who like discussing themes like power and justice. With two bound volumes and material online, there will be plenty to read and unpack.

    Content Notes

    Discussion of rape; violence and gore; sexism; attempted sexual assault; drinking

    Creator Identities:

    • Sexuality: 7029

    Main Character Identities:

    • Sexuality: 5363
    Recommended by

    Megan Rupe

    Hidden Gems: Memoirs

    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

    Cover Image

    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

    Cover Image

    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

    Cover Image

    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

    Cover Image

    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

    Cover Image

    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

    Cover Image

    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

    Cover Image

    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

    Cover Image

    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

    Cover Image

    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

    Cover Image

    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

    Cover Image

    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

    Cover Image

    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

    Cover Image

    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

    Cover Image

    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