Bang! Crash! Kapow! Splat! Thud! Whoosh! Zap! It’s Graphic Novels in Libraries Month!

Your Librarian for African American and African Studies, Katrina Spencer, loves graphic novels and comics. So, in keeping with July as Booklist’s Graphic Novels in Libraries Month, she has selected a few titles from a wealth of illustrious (and illustrated!) books. What themes interest you? Travel? Ethnic identity? Sexuality? Mental health? Foreign language? It’s all here!

For more titles, search Virgo: Limit your search to “Catalog Only” and filter search options under Subject to include graphic novels, comic books, comic strips, etc. A few of these titles are not currently available in the UVA Library but all may be requested through Interlibrary Loan.

“Aya: Life in Yop City”, Marguerite Abouet, 2012

Think of this graphic novel series as Côte d’Ivoire/Ivory Coast (West Africa) of the 1970s and ’80s meeting television soap opera — but on paper. Author Marguerite Abouet’s “Aya: Life in Yop City” is a love letter to her family’s country of origin. Richly colored and gaily rendered, this narrative goes far toward confirming that the lives of Black Africans are complex, humorous, multi-generational, and communal despite mass media depictions of war, famine, poverty, AIDS/HIV, and blood diamonds. I recommend this work to anyone interested in development, international aid, Francophone studies, and/or global studies. You can also find the work in French!

“La fille dans l’écran”, Lou Lubie and Manon Desveaux, 2019

A chance encounter brings love to the hearts of two women separated by an ocean. One is a photographer in Montreal, other an illustrator in France. Can the feelings they have for each other survive the distance? I recommend this work to anyone seriously studying French, anyone who loves graphic design, and anyone who enjoys seeing love prosper against all odds. “La fille dans l’écran” offers a great opportunity to expand French vocabulary while learning about two distinct regions of the Francophone world.

“Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir”, Ellen Forney, 2012

We have finally reached a stage in our culture in which discussions involving mental health are decreasingly stigmatized. In this autobiographical work, author Ellen Forney tells the story of her journey to better managing her bipolar disorder and the manic-depressive episodes it causes. Forney openly struggles with her desire to retain some effects that characterize her disorder, such as productivity, creativity, libido, and the roller coaster of experiences she has experienced in testing out a variety of doses of prescription drugs that work for her. Anyone wanting to learn more about bipolar disorder can gain knowledge from this work — particularly the lesson that finding what works may in fact take multiple tries.

“My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness”, Nagata Kabi, 2017 (this book is currently out of print but may be requested through Interlibrary Loan)

Trigger Warning: An eating disorder and self-harm are discussed in this work.

Author Nagata Kabi is having a hard time embracing adulthood. Her social networks are porous and her professional prospects are dim. One thing she can do is draw a narrative exposing her anxieties to the broader world. This autobiographical work follows Kabi as she attempts to venture out of isolation in pursuit of intimacy. Kabi’s work reveals sex education is not only narrow and overwhelmingly heteronormative in the United States, but limited in Japan, her country of origin. Experience also raises ethical questions surrounding sex work and its ease of access. I recommend this book to the queer and questioning and anyone who finds themselves at an emotional cliff as they approach adulthood.

“That Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story”, Huda Fahmy, 2020

Endearingly funny, Huda Fahmy’s tale of how she met her husband and became engaged allows readers to become familiar with a real life character who is feisty, subversive, and “hopelessly romantic.” At age 25, Huda is already considered a bit old to still be weighing marital prospects within her community. The fact that unrelated women and men are largely segregated within her community and dating is allowed only under the strictest, chaperoned circumstances makes courting awkward and difficult to navigate. However, this true tale reveals that it is possible for the persistent to triumph over circumstances and live to see loving days. I warmly recommend this work to anyone seeking parental approval of their love interest(s) and to anyone interested in Islamic cultures.

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