A First Time for Everything

Dan Santat

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In this heartwarming memoir, Dan Santat tells the story of his Europe trip the summer before high school. With warmth and humor, Santat explores a lot of firsts: first time outside his hometown, first taste of Fanta, and first love.

Appeals to

Readers looking for a great coming-of-age story that captures the joys and pains of teenage years; readers who need a story that shows things can get better after middle school

Creator Identities:

Thai-American |

Main Character Identities:

Thai-American |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Aya: Life in Yop City

Marguerite Abouet

Clement Oubrerie

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Aya is an intelligent girl who wants to become a doctor; her friends Bintou and Adjoua are trying to find love in their vibrant hometown, Yop City. As the girls figure out their lives, their families and community have their own stories as well. There's never a dull moment in Yop City!

Appeals to

Readers looking for fun and funny slice-of-life stories featuring African characters

Content Notes

Brief sexual harassment, nudity (although the situation is one where it makes sense to be naked)

Creator Identities:

French, Ivorian |

Main Character Identities:

Black, Ivorian |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Cats of the Louvre

Taiyo Matsumoto

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As might be expected, this is the story of cats that live at the Louvre Museum in France. But it's also so much more: a discussion of how people process art differently and how personal that process is, the delicacy of life, and what one place and its people look like over time. And much like visiting a museum, each time reading through Cats of the Louvre is a slightly different experience. Also, the cats are pretty cute.

Appeals to

The easy answer here is to recommend this to fans of Taiyo Matsumoto's other works or people that tend to go to museums or art shows, but let's not go with the easy answer. The human element of the story makes it a solid recommendation for readers of Our Colors or Blackwater, where the pains of growing up and facing unexpected moments in life center around stories that may or may not be supernatural. Meanwhile, the cat's eye view of the story could pull in readers of the growing genre of sweet and serious cat manga, like Cat + Gamer or A Man and His Cat.

Creator Identities:

Japanese |

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Daytripper

Gabriel Ba

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Brás de Oliva Domingos is an aspiring novelist, living in Brazil, whose day job is writing obituaries. This graphic novel presents different vignettes of Brás life, each ending with his death. As the reader explores the different "possible futures" of this one man, they are forced to contemplate the fragile and fleeting nature of life.

Appeals to

Those who enjoy non-linear storytelling telling or more advent-guard graphic novels that play with the format and what it can do.

Content Notes

Character Death

Creator Identities:

Brazilian, Latinx |

Main Character Identities:

Brazilian |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Night Bus

Zuo Ma

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Explore the surreal landscape between sleeping and waking, memory and reality, with the main character as the story drifts between moments. Sometimes we're in rural China, visiting the main character's grandmother, other times in the city with an artist identifying with a stray cat. The stories do interconnect and weave together, but it all has a filter of nostalgia and sadness between moments of real world, completely mundane moments. It's as much a journey through people and their memories as it is about the places these people's memories exist in.

Appeals to

Pick up Night Bus if you like Tillie Walden's exploration of West Texas in Are You Listening? or the mix of magic, memory, and trauma in Middlewest. Pick up Night Bus if you like comics that let the visuals do the storytelling, and are okay with some of those visuals being a little upsetting. Pick up Night Bus, and see where the dreams take you.

Content Notes

This story deals with things like death, dementia, and frustration at how modernization is changing the landscape, often using imagery involving bugs. Some can be pretty grotesque.

Creator Identities:

Chinese |

Main Character Identities:

Chinese |

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Our Not-So-Lonely Planet Travel Guide

Mone Sorai

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How about a comic not just set outside the US, but actually about international travel? The deal these boyfriends have made is that if they can travel around the world together, they'll get married. The first volume starts with them departing Japan and beginning their journey, and each volume so far has covered a few countries per volume as they work their way westward around the world. They meet other LGBTQ+ people, get sick, and learn how to be better partners for each other. Oh, and there are fun tidbits about each country, so it's totally educational.

Appeals to

Since this is about two men in a relationship, Our Not-So-Lonely Planet Travel Guide is an easy pick for readers of BL, but keep in mind that this falls in the more domestic and sweet stories like What Did You Eat Yesterday or Restart After Coming Home. But just because it's a MLM relationship doesn't mean it's only for BL readers; this is a great choice for anyone that likes sweet romance stories, especially with the trope of a prickly person being paired with a daydreamer.

Content Notes

Some discussion of homophobia or fears of being mistreated over being LGBTQ+

Creator Identities:

Japanese |

Main Character Identities:

Japanese |

Gay |

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea

Guy Delisle

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In this graphic memoir, Delisle explores a perspective that many Westerners do not have access to, which is what it's like to live in North Korea. Delisle spends two months in Korea working for a French animation company and this graphic novel describes him, living, working, and trying to understand the restrictive country that is North Korea. Since cameras were not allowed in the country, Delisle used his artistic ability to capture the things witnessed there, sketching and journaling every day to try to remember it all.

Appeals to

Those who enjoyed stories about people living and enduring extraordinary (and sometimes oppressively) situations like Ducks by Kate Beaton or Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi will enjoy this book.

Content Notes

Discussion of Propaganda

Creator Identities:

Canadian |

Main Character Identities:

Canadian |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Shubeik Lubeik

Deena Mohamed

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A poor woman saves up to buy a powerful wish, only for the authorities to imprison her. A college student wrestles with the ethical implications of using a wish to fix their mental health. These are just a couple of the stories in Shubeik Lubeik, which take place in a world where wishes are real and can be purchased.

Appeals to

Readers who enjoy thoughtful, expansive fantasy will enjoy the excellent worldbuilding and personal stories in Shubeik Lubeik.

Content Notes

Violence, death, abuse, depression

Creator Identities:

Egyptian |

Main Character Identities:

Egyptian |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Summer Spirit

Elizabeth Holleville

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During a summer at her grandmother's house, Louise is realizing how un-fun it is to be the youngest. Her sister and her cousins want to talk about boys and sneak out late, and Louise is feeling left behind. Then she meets Lisa, someone her age who always seems to be around when the teenage drama between her cousins and sister becomes too much, but Lisa is not just another girl who lives in the neighborhood, she's a ghost haunting her grandmother's property. Will Lisa be a friendly spirit guide as Louise navigates getting older or will she be something darker?

Appeals to

Readers who love the mix of sisterhood and the paranormal in M is for Monster will enjoy this book.

Creator Identities:

French |

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

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