Unique Graphic Literature With a Twist on Slice-of-Life

As we celebrate AAPI Heritage Month, this week’s picks are graphic novels that ask readers to dive deeper into what slice-of-life stories can look like.

Graphic Novels Recommendations Three To Read
Three to Read spread with Family Style: Memories of an American from Vietnam, Enlighten Me, and Beyond the Icon: Asian American Graphic Narratives book covers, surrounded by flowers.

With the growing popularity of graphic novels, new stories are being told through this format. While some may still see graphic novels as only for younger audiences, readers of all ages are invited to open up a graphic novel. As we celebrate AAPI month, these graphic novel picks follow personal journeys, whether fictional or even biographical, as a reminder that there’s more than meets the eye in depictions of life.

HOT PICK

Family Style: Memories of an American from Vietnam by Thien Pham

Cover of Family Style with some images of comic panels in all blue, with a bowl of noodles in the front.
IMAGE VIA BOOKSHOP

SYNOPSIS:

This YA graphic memoir asks readers to journey with Thien Pham as he recounts the journey of his family fleeing from Vietnam, making their way through a refugee camp in Thailand, and reaching California. Through the various food items he encounters, Pham showcases what food represents to him and the different stories it tells alongside the difficulties and victories of his family.

WHY:

There is something so special about sharing food with someone — a meal, a snack, or a full-on feast. Either way, it’s a way to get to know someone and perhaps an insight into their culture too! This graphic novel offers an incredible visual layout of Pham’s family journey and a look into navigating different foods he and his family encountered. His experience may be similar or different than our own, but this graphic novel invites you to hear from someone else’s experience over a meal.

Coffee Shop

Enlighten Me by Minh Lê, illustrated by Chan Chau

Cover of Enlighten Me with main character Binh in front of a tree.
IMAGE VIA BOOKSHOP

SYNOPSIS:

What would you do if you had to go on a silent retreat after standing up to a bully who was making fun of your Vietnamese heritage? For Binh, he’s about to find out. While he certainly didn’t expect this outcome, his interest is piqued when a nun at the retreat tells the stories of Buddha’s past lives. This experience is sure to impact Binh, whether it means pushing himself away or slowly opening up to the idea of change.

WHY:

Though this graphic novel may be presented for younger readers, its themes can still impact a wide range of readers. Everyday life can be tumultuous, and traveling to this silent retreat with Binh may also give readers a way to think and pause. Even if readers don’t necessarily practice meditation themselves, they can learn a bit more about different practices through this graphic novel.

DARK HORSE

Beyond the Icon: Asian American Graphic Narratives edited by Eleanor Ty

Cover of Beyond the Icon with two people standing in the sea, right by the sand.
IMAGE VIA BOOKSHOP

SYNOPSIS:

As the winner of the 2023 Comics Studies Society Edited Book Prize, Beyond the Icon is an anthology that utilizes the comic form to share different Asian American experiences in a way that showcases and expands on various diaspora narratives. Ultimately, this book conveys the importance of the comic form, particularly in rewriting Asian American stories that combat initial misrepresentations and stereotypes.

WHY:

It’s not often that you get to read a mixture of a graphic novel and an anthology, especially since these are often quite separate things. Since it is an anthology, there are so many incredible stories you’ll get to read from various authors. Not only are you able to learn more about the Asian American experience, but you can also see the art direction from each contributor, adding to the learning factor, since nothing is written in the same way.

Graphic novels are a great way to learn something new, especially since you get several elements from the illustrations to the storytelling. Combine that with the author or illustrator’s personal touch, from art style to story structure, and you’ve got an invitation to walk through life with the characters.


Want more recommendations? Check out last week’s Three to Read here!

You can find these books and more on our Bookstr Three to Read Bookshop page!

FEATURED IMAGE VIA BOOKSTR / JAIDEN CRUZ