If you’re looking for a feel-good, tearjerker graphic novel, read on.
Nimona is by ND Stevenson, the mastermind behind She-Ra. It follows Nimona, a shapeshifter who joins the villain Ballister Blackheart to overthrow an organization called The Institute and defeat their champion, Ambrosius Goldenloin. What starts as a lighthearted story about an overzealous girl and a villain with a code of ethics quickly turns into an exploration of flawed characters and complex relationships. Making me laugh out loud and cry, Nimona is one of the sweetest, most poignant works I have read.
2. Spellbound: A Graphic Memoir
Spellbound by transgender artist Bishakh Som tells Som’s story through a cis main character. She lets us into her life, starting with her childhood and even explaining the process of writing this novel. Anjali’s story gives us a raw, mostly autobiographical view of Som’s life as a transgender Indian-American, grappling with issues of family, identity, and queerness. Spellbound isn’t a quick read, and I didn’t finish it in one sitting–but I wouldn’t have wanted to. Anjali’s story is meant to be put down and thought about, turned over until the reader can empathize with it and understand it.
3. Fine: A Comic About Gender
Similar to Spellbound, this also wasn’t a one-sitting read. Fine is full of stories from that of the author’s own to the dozens of people Rhea Ewing interviewed to tell this story. What makes Fine so special is that they highlight a variety of experiences in their entirety. The drawings and panels make the interviewees come to life and the different perspectives create a book that makes individuals all across the gender spectrum feel less alone. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about living outside the gender binary and to anyone who’s trying to figure their own identity out.
4. The Prince and the Dressmaker
My favorite thing about Jen Wang’s book is that it's not explicitly queer. It’s just about a prince who likes to wear dresses sometimes and the seamstress with big dreams that makes his runway-worthy outfits. Sebastian, the French prince in question, has to hide his love for dresses, donning them under the name Lady Crystallia which is where the queerness of the book comes into play. His story alludes to what many queer people experience in the real world.
I know you all would come after me if I made a list of queer graphic novels without including the Heartstopper series. Nick, Charlie, and the gang can and will steal your heart. Heartstopper is one of the sweetest, most diverse books I’ve read in a while and the type of book one cozies up and rereads now and then. Alice Oseman creates the world many long for and delivers happy endings with the main characters overcoming their issues. Also. The Netflix show. Guys.
Witchlight is a short, lighthearted novel about Lelek, a witch/con artist that kidnaps the peasant Sanja. Jessi Zabarsky weaves a charming, raw, and sweet story about two girls trying to find themselves as they search for the missing half of Lelek’s soul. Witchlight is a short read, and the author knows it. Zabarsky does not try to stretch the story too thin but still manages to fit a whirlwind of emotions into one book full of body diversity and self-love.
7. The Magic Fish
The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen is probably one of the top ten best books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Part fairytale, part past, part present, Trung Le Nguyen moves gracefully through a story about puberty, friendship, family, and immigration based largely on his experiences. Tiến Phong, the Vietnamese main character, teaches his mother Engish through fairytales but struggles to tell her he’s gay in words she can understand. The story uses different colors to represent the past, present, and fairytale and sheds light on the author’s own life and the experiences of immigrants in the US.
8. Pixels of You
This is the least-known book on this list, and that is so, so sad. Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota bring a story about a rivalry between a cybernetically augmented human and a human-presenting AI. After a public blowout, the two photographers are forced to work together or leave the gallery. They learn about each others’ lives, cultures, and worlds and come to an understanding. This book is very Red, White, and Royal Blue but works with lower stakes and pulls together a feel-good story with themes of acceptance and love.
I am loving these books right now, so give them a read and drop a comment telling us what you think. Happy reading!
Stuti Desaiis a high school student in New Jersey. They like (in no particular order) books, music, science, history, running, and (of course) writing and are always up to learn something new! Find them on Instagram at @writing_stoot.
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