4 graphic memoirs to read right now

These new graphic novels and comics, which chronicle everything from motherhood to mixtapes, are perfect for long summer evenings spent reading.

In addition to these new graphic memoirs, I highly recommend the March trilogy—a powerful and award-winning series by the late Congressman John Lewis that chronicles the Civil Rights movement through his eyes.

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51kKTYp7G L. SX260  - 4 graphic memoirs to read right now

Go to Sleep (I Miss You): Cartoons from the Fog of New Parenthood by Lucy Knisley

Lucy Knisley is nominated for a 2020 Eisner Award for her fantastic memoir Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos, which chronicles her experience becoming a mother. In her follow-up, Go to Sleep (I Miss You), Knisley records the first months of new motherhood. In cartoons that are both hilarious and poignant, she recounts sleepless nights, newborn feeding schedules, and the fabled new-baby smell, creating an honest memoir of her first months negotiating the push-and-pull of motherhood. The cartoons are deceptively simple and minimalist, and have just the right amount of nostalgia for anyone who has cared for an infant.

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51XC5wHouKL - 4 graphic memoirs to read right now

Dancing at the Pity Party: A Dead Mom Graphic Memoir by Tyler Feder

In this meditative and haunting graphic memoir, Tyler Feder mourns her mother, who passed away during Feder’s sophomore year in college. Feder is able to capture moments that are both tender and funny, as she describes her mother’s life and the ways people react to her mother’s death. The art evokes the same sort of mood with muted pinks paired with quietly funny images of lists, remedies, and a brief segue into grief yoga. Feder wrestles with utter sadness in this book, but Dancing at the Pity Party is also a comic about love and how the people we love stay with us.

41KnRG+e7NL. SX331 BO1,204,203,200  - 4 graphic memoirs to read right now

41KnRG+e7NL. SX331 BO1,204,203,200  - 4 graphic memoirs to read right now

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist by Adrian Tomine

In Adrian Tomine’s latest work, it seems he is always chasing success—but no matter how close he comes to finding fame, the feeling of becoming a celebrated comic is just around the corner. This sentiment follows Tomine throughout his story, which begins with him as a young comic-nerd in grade school and follows his path as he becomes a cartoonist. Dwelling on feelings of inferiority for an entire book may strike some readers as an annoying fallacy since Tomine’s work has gained such wide appreciation, but his awkward honesty will have the familiar ring of truth to many, especially as catharsis finally comes at the narrative’s end.

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41epPsvK0eL - 4 graphic memoirs to read right now

The Fire Never Goes Out: A Memoir in Pictures by Noelle Stevenson

From the Nimona comic to the animated series She-Ra, Noelle Stevenson has a knack for capturing fans’ hearts. Her newest endeavor, an autobiographical graphic novel titled The Fire Never Goes Out, is no exception. These comic strips—many of which were originally posted to Stevenson’s Tumblr—are as emotionally raw and brutal as they are honest. They are full of experimentation in form, from simple cartoons to a graphic mixtape, as Stevenson tries on different styles to suit her mood. Above all, the comics are a testament to a hungry, adventurous spirit who is brave enough to be honest with herself and her legions of fans.

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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