Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2022) Featured Review of Cyclopedia Exotica by Aminder Dhaliwal

Cyclopedia Exotica by Aminder Dhaliwal
Drawn & Quarterly
Publication Date: May 11, 2021
ISBN: 9781770464377

In this thought-provoking and humorous comic, six cyclopes negotiate love, life, and the pressures of being “other” within the dominant “two-eyed” culture. Readers are introduced to characters including Etna, a ground-breaking cover model; Pol and Latea, lonely cyclopes looking for love; Bron, whose self-hatred led him to failed eye surgery; and Pari, a young woman with a two-eyed spouse who’s about to become a mother. The stories take place in everyday spaces of interaction, ranging from dog parks to doctors’ offices, highlighting the subtle bigotry hidden in even the most mundane of places. 

Using a series of vignettes, Dhaliwal explores the different ways that cyclopes, as a minority population, face discrimination or feel compelled to assimilate, even as they are fetishized by a two-eyed society. Pari, for example, is made to feel like her pregnant body is a public commodity, and both she and Bron mutilate their bodies to look more like two-eyed individuals. The engaging black and white drawings serve to bring the characters’ struggles to life, while the subversive, ironic humor helps keep the stories from feeling entirely heartbreaking. Although published as an adult title, younger readers can relate to overall themes such as coming to terms with identity, fear of rejection, and finding community. 

Share this with readers who enjoy New Adult stories such as Kat Leyh’s Thirsty Mermaids or Cheeky: A Head-to-Toe Memoir by Ariella Elovic. Readers of Rick Riordan and other tales inspired by Greek mythology, who are ready for more mature fare, might also enjoy this title. 

Kathleen J. Barker

Other Nominated Titles

  • We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American Resistance to Wartime Incarceration by Frank Abe, Tamiko Nimura, Matt Sasaki, and Ross Ishikawa (May 18, 2021)
  • Blue Flag, v.8 by KAITO (June 15, 2021)
  • Poison Ivy: Thorns by Kody Keplinger and Sara Kipin (June 1, 2021)
  • The Night Marchers and Other Oceanian Tales: Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales edited by Kate Ashwin, Sloane Leong, and Kel McDonald (April 20, 2021)
  • Seven Secrets, v.1 by Tom Taylor and Daniele Di Nicuolo (May 4, 2021)

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination. 

Each week, the teams will feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation will be listed as well. At year’s end, the team will use that list of nominated titles to select a final list and Top Ten. The previous years’ lists are also made available on The Hub.

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Great Graphic Novels for Teens

Great Graphic Novels for Teens Blogging Team @ YALSA's The Hub.