Almost twenty years ago now I read Maus—Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel about the Holocaust—and was hooked on graphic books. Somehow the combination of text and images totally immerses me in a way that feels magic. Here are three works of graphic nonfiction I read and loved recently. They’re not connected thematically, but I think each would be a good place to start if you haven’t read a graphic book before and would like to try one.
Jake Halpern and Michael Sloan
This is a work of journalism: Halpern spent three years following the life of a Syrian family who fled the civil war and went to Connecticut as refugees. Skillful, economic storytelling gives you a picture of their adjustment to life in the United States. Heartbreaking and heartwarming, this book began as a Pulitzer Prize-winning series published in the New York Times.
John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell
Intended to introduce a new generation to the civil rights movement through the lens of John Lewis’s lifelong dedication to it, this trilogy is recommended for Grades 8 and up. This adult reader found it impossible to put down. From Lewis’s leadership in the lunch counter sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, the marches, and the efforts to register Black voters, to a SNCC delegation trip across the African continent, the reader is given a sense of the sweep of the movement.
CAN’T WE TALK ABOUT SOMETHING MORE PLEASANT?
New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast tells the story of her parents’ aging and decline. As their only child, it falls to Chast to navigate their end-of-life concerns and manage their care. Her story lays bare how our society fails to support its elderly and their caregivers, and yet Chast’s honesty and humor make this a consoling read. She shows us how the deeply sad and the deeply funny can coexist as she depicts the challenges of aging and also of the parent-child relationship.