Illustrations and narrative: the perfect reading combo beside the pool or under a shade tree during the lazy days of summer. We enjoyed them when we were kids (who doesn’t still love Dr. Seuss?), and the graphic novel is the adult version of this beloved pairing of mediums. A classification that straddles genre fences, the graphic novel peers at the grass on either side, scoffing at both. But no matter where in the bookstore we find them, they’re a delight when we do. Here are a few memoirs turned graphic novel that amuse, provoke, and inspire as much as bemuse genres.
Roz Chast: Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
Chast recounts her parent’s life together, how they coped with declining health and the loss of their independence and the impact it had on her. Chast wrestles her parent’s idiosyncrasies with compassion and exasperation, finally realizing resolution as she lays her parents to their final rest.
Allie Brosh: Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other things That Happened
Brosh’s distinctive narrative voice cuts through the page, but if that doesn’t get you laughing, the illustrations will. This is the kind of graphic novel that makes even me, who can’t draw a straight line with a ruler, believe I can create a graphic novel too. Her mediations on depression are considered some of the best on the disease ever written.
Alison Bechdel: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
This is one of my all-time favorites for so many reasons. The illustrations are knock-down-drag-out terrific, and the braided narrative that weaves literary reference with Bechdel’s coming out story and her father’s semi-coming out into a memoir so tight, it could hold a gallon of emotional water.
Marjane Satrapi: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
History, conflict, and a moment in time all while a girl grows up in Iran. Satrapi paints the picture of daily life during the Islamic Revolution with wit, simultaneously heartbreaking and wise. A must read.
Lucy Knisley: Displacement: A Travelogue
Knisley accompanies her grandparents on a cruise, which provokes thoughts on mortality, coming to terms with her grandparent’s younger and older selves, and connecting with two (often frustrating) ailing grandparents. Her grandfather’s WWII memoir becomes the bridge for Knisley’s compassion.
So there you have it, some great summer reads with pictures that say as much as the text. Enjoy!
Cat Hubka is the Nonfiction Editor of Blue Mesa Review