I always love reading memoirs. They are such a great way to experience new perspectives on the world and to learn about an author in an intensely personal way. But as much as I enjoy text-only memoirs, I love graphic novel memoirs even more because the artwork brings a whole new dimension to the work. With these books, all of which are written and illustrated by the same individual, readers are brought into the author’s life in a way that text alone cannot achieve. Whether you already have a love for memoirs or not, these books are sure to keep you engaged and make you think about the world a bit differently.
Relish: My Life In The Kitchen by Lucy Knisley (2014 Alex Award winner, Great Graphic Novels 2014) – I’ve mentioned Lucy Knisley’s works before in this series of posts, but Relish is such a great example of a graphic novel memoir, that I couldn’t resist including it here. In this memoir, Knisley focuses on her love of food, integrating illustrated recipes with stories of growing up with a mom who is a chef and a dad who is a foodie into a unique coming-of-age story. This was the first book I ever read by Knisley and I think it is a great entry point for her works, particularly if you love good food.
A Game for Swallows: To Die, To Leave, To Return by Zeina Abirached (Great Graphic Novel 2013) – This memoir about Abirached’s childhood in Lebanon during the country’s civil war brings the conflict to life but also shows the universal nature of community, friendship, and family. The bold black and white artwork complements the stories taken from Abirached’s memory of the time. This book, and her second entitled I Remember Beirut, are great introductions to this time period and powerful examples of graphic novel memoirs.
Darkroom: A Memoir In Black and White by Lila Quintero Weaver – Recounting Weaver’s childhood in Marion, Alabama in the 1960’s during segregation, this book offers a personal vantage point into the civil rights movement. Weaver experienced this era from the perspective of a Latina immigrant who was trying to find her place in a new society, which is a compelling vantage point for this time and location. This is a fascinating look at this period and a great memoir.
Smile by Raina Telgemeier (Great Graphic Novels 2011) – After an unlikely and unfortunate accident leaves her without her front teeth, Telgemeier suddenly had to endure a long string of dental procedures and treatments to attempt to address this problem. Using that as a jumping off point, she tells the story of her adolescence in Smile, including the ups and downs of friendship and relationships. Though the book is focused on her middle school life, it is relatable for readers of all ages. If (when?) you love this book, you will also want to check out its companion, Sisters.
To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel with art by Mark Siegel (Great Graphic Novels 2007) – This memoir tells the story of Siegel’s life from her childhood dreaming of being a dancer to her career as a professional ballerina and her debut with the renowned New York City Ballet. The watercolor artwork by Siegel’s husband complements the story perfectly. This memoir is a perfect option for aspiring dancers and other ballet fans.
Still interested in more graphic novel memoirs? Check out Emily Childress-Campbell’s post on the genre, which includes several examples by women.
– Carli Spina, currently reading Hawkeye: L.A. Woman by Matt Fraction with art by Javier Pulido and Annie Wu