I used to overlook memoirs when shopping for books or perusing the library. In doing this, I foolishly neglected myself a bounty of beautiful books. Memoirs offer insightful glances into the lives of the authors, providing perspectives we readers might not get in our everyday lives. I grew particularly fond of graphic memoirs, a memoir written as a graphic novel. Thanks to the mechanics of comics, graphic memoirs allow the authors to tell their stories in a unique manner.
When reading a book, the reader will visualize the events with their own imagination. This results in multiple interpretations of the same event – each reader will perceive a description in a slightly different way based on their own experiences. Graphic memoirs avoid this thanks to their usage of images. With a picture, you’re ensuring that your audience at least sees the same thing on the page. This way, the author can depict the events of the narrative with greater efficacy and accuracy.
This doesn’t mean the reader cannot interpret things on their own. In fact, the more abstract or expressionist the graphic memoir’s art is, the more opportunity for interpretation the author can create. It comes down to how concrete or abstract they make the art. Check out some of these graphic memoirs next time you’re looking for reading material.
March by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
Based on Congressman John Lewis’s own experience, March is a three-part series retelling the events of the American Civil Rights Movement. From the point of view of a man on the front lines, this story of activism is honest and eye opening. It received several awards upon release, and is a testament to Lewis’s legacy.
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
An LGBTQ+ narrative, this coming of age story examines Bechdel’s complicated relationship with her father. As Bechdel explores her own sexuality, she learns about her closeted father’s sexuality and the effects it holds on their family life. With plenty of literary allusions to keep you on your toes, this graphic memoir is an honest look into a family that other people might not have seen otherwise.
Epileptic by David Beauchard
This French graphic novel depicts the horrific challenges of severe epilepsy. David’s brother suffers from the condition, and his family tries as many different treatments as possible in an attempt to relieve his suffering. The shocking, abstract art style alone makes this graphic memoir worth the read.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
One of the graphic memoirs that brought attention to the medium, Persepolis is another coming of age story. Satrapi grew up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, then moved to Austria as a young adult. This shows us the narrator’s perception in two ways: through the eyes of a child, and the eyes of an adult.
Maus by Art Spiegelman
A relevant read due to recent events, Spiegelman’s Maus recounts his father’s experience in the German concentration camps during World War II. An experimentalist, Spiegelman draws different demographics as a respective animal – Jewish people are mice, Nazis are cats, and so on. It’s an inventive way to tell a heartbreaking story, with symbolism adding to the heavy subject matter in a way that deepens the reader’s understanding.
They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Steven Scott, and Jason Eisinger
Famous for his role as Lieutenant Commander Sulu from the original Star Trek series, this graphic memoir highlights a heavier part of Takei’s past. During World War II, Takei’s family was sent to an American concentration camp for Aisan Americans. Retelling his experience as a child growing up in a racist institution, They Called Us Enemy shows the dangers and effects of legalized racism and the ramifications it still has today.
This list only scratches the surface of graphic memoirs, with more being written everyday. With such an extensive selection to choose from, there’s sure to be a narrative that catches your interest.
is a writer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Graduating in May 2020 with a degree in English Literature with a Writing Emphasis, Ian writes comics, poetry, and scripts. He is currently an intern for The Brain Health Magazine and aims to work in the comic publishing industry. In his spare time, Ian plays Dungeons & Dragons, board games, and bass guitar.
MORE BY THIS AUTHOR: