Honest. Horrifying. Hopeful. Graphic memoirists are renowned for their ability to cut to the quick of their experiences. whether it be growing up with a troubled parent or attending class with a budding serial killer. These 10 memoirs, complete with moving text and gorgeous illustrations, are treats to be savored, not devoured. Bon Appetite!
- Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
If you think your family has issues, you should probably check out Alison Bechdel’s. An acclaimed cartoonist and out lesbian, Bechdel was raised in a rural Pennsylvania town by a closeted gay father who died from an apparent suicide when she was 20. Yet even in the midst of this lurid arc, Bechdel never gives into the impulse for melodrama or sensationalism, striving to commit the truth of her family’s secrets to the page and find peace-of-mind in her father’s wake.
- Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Iran, land of Islamic theocracy and geopolitical intrigue, is never far from the West’s attention. But when it comes to grappling with the history of this large and rapidly changing country, few are better equipped than Tehran-born Marjane Satrapi. Marjane, a young girl during the 1979 Islamic revolution, is a first-hand witness to the agony and ecstacy of revolutionary Iran as she comes of age against during deposal of the cruel Shah and the rise of repressive violent dogma.Though the outspoken young Satrapi eventually chooses to leave Iran, her boundless affection for the stories and loved ones of her homeland transforms our understanding of a place too often shrouded in mystique and misconception.
- Maus by Art Spiegelman
A pioneer of the genre, Maus tells the story of a father and son haunted by the ghosts of the past. Vladek, the father, is a Holocaust survivor with an difficult personality; Art is the semi-estranged son and author of this account of his father’s WWII ordeal. Choosing to represent Jews (including himself) as mice and their German tormentors as cats, Spiegelman throws the already bizarre dynamics of genocide and human suffering into sharp relief. Maus is an unflinching exploration of the act of witness and the cost of survival.
- Our Cancer Year by Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner
Harvey Pekar, author of the underground comic American Splendor, enjoys a boisterous yet loving marriage with wife Joyce when he receives a sobering diagnosis: lymphoma. An exasperating man even when in the best of health, Pekar doesn’t exactly handle his illness with the grace and dignity one usually assumes of cancer patients. Thankfully, he has Joyce and a few good friends to help him through. Covering everything from the politics of the Gulf War to the anxieties of hospital life, Pekar and Brabner take no prisoners in this frank exploration of life in the midst of disease and disaster.
- Blankets by Craig Thompson
Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy loses girl. From the particulars of his own life, Thompson turns the thrill and heartache of young love into something of a modern-day fairytale. Raina, the girl, loves him deeply—but she has responsibilities that prevent her from enjoying the carefree youth she deserves. Craig, meanwhile, must wrestle with the legacy of a deeply religious, sometimes traumatic childhood with his strict parents and now-distant younger brother. A gifted artist, Thompson has an exceptional ability to make a secluded coming-of-age otherworldly and haunting.
- Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
Chast, best-known for her witty New Yorker cartoons, is brutally honest in her recollections of the final years of her elderly parents’ lives. The only child of a neurotic father and overbearing mother, Chast found herself embroiled in the maddening quagmire that is end-of-life care. Forced to watch her proudly independent parents give in to the devastating forces of old age, Chast takes a stab at everything from the complexities of guilt to the mysterious life-extending properties of PediaSure. Her acerbic voice will stay in your ear long after you finish this book.
- Epileptic by David B.
David B., born Pierre-François Beauchard, lived an idyllic life until his older brother, Jean-Christophe, was struck with severe epilepsy at the age of 11. Pierre-Francois’s family search far and wide for a cure or some relief, ultimately to no avail. As Jean-Christophe continues to decline, Pierre-Francois finds solace in art, drawing fantastical battles that mirror the turmoil of his personal life. Like Our Cancer Year, Epileptic presents a view of illness not often found in contemporary culture, and one that we could use much more of.
- Tomboy by Liz Prince
Growing up, Liz Prince knew that she wasn’t like other girls. The problem was she wasn’t like most boys, either. Straddling the gender boundaries, Prince grappled with her identity for years before finally finding peace through the punk movement and her own artistic expression. Utilizing simple black line drawings, Prince is both whimsical and clear-eyed in her portrayal of the fits and starts that comprise the difficult work of growing up.
- March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell
These days, John Lewis is a long-serving congressman noted for his defiance of the Trump administration. But in the late 50’s and early 60’s, Lewis was a young student attempting to achieve equal rights for himself and his fellow black Americans. Framed by the inauguration of America’s first black president, the book portrays Lewis remembering his life on the bleeding edge of the civil rights struggle, taking untold abuse and walking side-by-side with Martin Luther King. His remarkable life shows that freedom often comes at a price—but a price well worth paying.
10. My Friend Dahmer by John “Derf” Backderf
From the age of 12 to age 18, Backderf attended school with Jeffrey Dahmer. Yes, that Jeffrey Dahmer—the man who killed 17 young men and boys before committing unspeakable acts with their bodies. But Backderf does not portray Dahmer—or at least, the Dahmer he knew—as an inhuman monster. No, the Dahmer he recalls was a lonely, awkward boy abandoned by the adults in his life and cajoled by his peers into making a fool of himself. Backderf makes no attempt to apologize for Dahmer’s crimes, but he does give us an surprising and deeply sad look at the unlikely origins of evil.