Sunday, 13 November 2011

Genre: Graphic Memoirs, Other Reads

Fun Home was the second graphic memoir that I read, Maus being the first (If you have not read this one you must!). I think many can say at least many graphic memoirists can say that Art Spiegelman really kick started/launched the genre. Alison mentioned in an interview how she did not know what format to present her memoir in until she found Maus.
So I found out... I like these graphic memoirs. I'm going to list a few that I want to check out and you might too if you liked Fun Home. 

1. Maus: A survior's tale, By: Art Spiegelman

Synopsis/Description: On the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of its first publication, here is the definitive edition of the book acclaimed as “the most affecting and successful narrative ever done about the Holocaust” ( Wall Street Journal) and “the first masterpiece in comic book history” ( The New Yorker). The Pulitzer Prize-winning Maustells the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler's Europe, and his son, a cartoonist coming to terms with his father's story. Mausapproaches the unspeakable through the diminutive. Its form, the cartoon (the Nazis are cats, the Jews mice), shocks us out of any lingering sense of familiarity and succeeds in “drawing us closer to the bleak heart of the Holocaust” ( The New York Times). Mausis a haunting tale within a tale. Vladek's harrowing story of survival is woven into the author's account of his tortured relationship with his aging father. Against the backdrop of guilt brought by survival, they stage a normal life of small arguments and unhappy visits. This astonishing retelling of our century's grisliest news is a story of survival, not only of Vladek but of the children who survive even the survivors. Mausstudies the bloody pawprints of history and tracks its meaning for all of us.

2. Persepolis, By: Marjane Satrapi

Synopsis: Persepolis is the story of Satrapi's unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trails of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming--both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up. Edgy, searingly observant, and candid, often heartbreaking but threaded throughout with raw humor and hard-earned wisdom, Persepolis is a stunning work from one of the most highly regarded, singularly talented graphic artists at work today.

Extra Stuff: 
1. Interview with Marjane SatrapiShe discusses the ever so talked about conflict Fiction VS Memoir, how her memoir became a film, and her memoir writing technique

3. Blankets, By: Craig Thompson

Review: "It's a fast read, but Blankets is worth revisiting, if only to luxuriate in its astonishing imagery and pick up all the details you missed the first time when you were too eager to find out what happens next. Thompson's layouts are intricate and organic; instead of the rigid six- or eight-panel pages of standard comics, he varies the shape, size, even the borders of his panels, frequently achieving a collage-like effect that would simply be impossible in any other medium. Like the best comix stories, Blankets emphasizes the medium's exclusive strengths. Thompson's illustrations pack more beauty and power than much prose or poetry, and the frozen images allow the reader's gaze to linger, to examine, to climb inside the picture in ways that film cannot." Chris Bolton, 

Extra Stuff:

4. Mendel's Daughter, By: Martin Lemelman

Synopsis: In 1989 Martin Lemelman videotaped his mother, Gusta, as she opened up about her childhood in 1930s Poland and her eventual escape from Nazi persecution. Mendel's Daughter, now in paperback and selected as one of the best books of 2006 by the Austin Chronicle, is Lemelman's loving transcription of his mother's harrowing testimony, bringing her narrative to life with his own powerful black-and-white drawings, interspersed with reproductions of actual photographs, documents and other relics from that era. The result is a wholly original, authentic and moving account of hope and survival in a time of despair. 

Gusta's story opens with a portrait of shtetl life, filled with homey images that evoke the richness of food and flowers, of family and friends and of Jewish tradition. Soon, however, Gusta's girlhood is cut short as her family experiences Hitler's rise, rumors of war, invasion, occupation, round-ups and pogroms, forcing Gusta into flight and hiding. Mendel's Daughter is Martin Lemelman's solemn and stirring testament to his mother's bravery and a celebration of her perseverance. The devastatingly simple power of a mother's words and a son's illustrations combine to create a work that is both intensely personal and universally resonant. Mendel's Daughter combines an unforgettable true story with elegant, haunting illustrations to shed new light on one of history's darkest periods.

Extra Stuff:
1. Mendel's Daughter Website

5. Blue Pills: A Positive Love Story, By Frederik Peeters

Synopsis/Description: From one of Europe's most celebrated young comics artists, a deeply personal story that will resonate with all of us who have chosen to love in the face of great challenges. One summer night at a house party, Fred met Cati. Though they barely spoke, he vividly remembered her gracefulness and abandon. They meet again years later, and this time their connection is instantaneous. But when things become serious, a nervous Cati tells him that she and her three-year-old son are both HIV positive. With great beauty and economy, Peeters traces the development of their intimacy and their revelatory relationship with a doctor whose affection and frankness allow them to fully realize their passionate connection. Then Cati's son gets sick, bringing Fred face to face with death. It forces him to question the meaning of life, illness, and love — until a Socratic dialogue with a mammoth helps him recognize that living with illness is also a gift; it has freed him to savor his life with Cati. Like the best graphic memoirs, Blue Pills puts a daunting subject into artistic and human terms in a way that is refreshingly honest and profoundly accessible. A brave and unsentimental romance, Blue Pills will resonate with anyone whose love has faced great obstacles and triumphed.

Extra Stuff:
1. "Blue Pills" on Google books

6. Skim, By: Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki. (Set in Toronto!)

Synopsis: Skim is a "not-slim" student at an all-girls catholic school. She is known as a goth, and practices Wicca. When popular girl Katie Matthews gets dumped by her athlete boyfriend, who days later kills himself, the entire school goes into mourning overdrive. With the school counselors breathing down her neck and the popular clique (including Katie's best friend Julie Peters) forming a new club in its wake, Skim finds herself in the crosshairs, deepening her "depression". And if things cannot get more complicated, Skim starts to fall for an equally quirky teacher.

Extra Stuff:
1. Video Interview with the Creators

7. Autobiographix, Published by: Dark Horse Comics 

Description: Dedicated readers have long known that the medium of comics and graphic novels isn't all about caped super-heroes and spandex-clad bad girls. In fact, the combination of words and pictures can be the perfect vehicle for telling all kinds of stories, from poignant memoirs to lighter takes on the mundane musings of modern life. This collection of short stories illustrates, quite literally, the effectiveness of the medium for telling the most personal of stories - the autobiography - and does so by showcasing some of the first published autobiographical stories from living-legend artists, mainstream greats, and young "indie" up-and-comers.

Creators: Frank Miller, Matt Wagner, Will Eisner, Sergio Aragones, Stan Sakai, Paul Chadwick, and Others. 

8. Palestine, By Joe Sacco

Synopsis/Description:  Prior to Safe Area Gorazde: The War In Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995—Joe Sacco's breakthrough novel of graphic journalism—the acclaimed author was best known forPalestine, a two-volume graphic novel that won an American Book Award in 1996. Based on several months of research and an extended visit to the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the early 1990s (where he conducted over 100 interviews with Palestinians and Jews), Palestine was the first major comics work of political and historical nonfiction by Sacco, whose name has since become synonymous with this graphic form of New Journalism. Like Safe Area Gorazde, Palestine has been favorably compared to Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus for its ability to brilliantly navigate such socially and politically sensitive subject matter within the confines of the comic book medium. Sacco has often been called the first comic book journalist, and he is certainly the best. 

9. Cancer Vixen, By: Marisa Acocella Marchetto

Synopsis/Description: What happens when a shoe-crazy, lipstick-obsessed, wine-swilling, pasta-slurping, fashion-fanatic, single-forever, about-to-get-married big-city girl cartoonist with a fabulous life finds . . . a lump in her breast?” That’s the question that sets this powerful, funny, and poignant graphic memoir in motion. In vivid color and with a taboo-breaking sense of humor, Marisa Acocella Marchetto tells the story of her eleven-month, ultimately triumphant bout with breast cancer—from diagnosis to cure, and every challenging step in between.

But Cancer Vixen is about more than surviving an illness. It is a portrait of one woman’s supercharged life in Manhattan, and a wonderful love story. Marisa, self-described “terminal bachelorette,” meets her Prince Charming in Silvano, owner of the chic downtown restaurant Da Silvano. Three weeks before their wedding, she receives her diagnosis. She wonders: How will he react to this news? How will my world change? Will I even survive? And . . . what about my hair?

From raucous New Yorker staff lunches and the star-studded crowd at Silvano’s restaurant to the rainbow pumps Marisa wears to chemotherapy, Cancer Vixen is a total original. Marisa’s wit and courage are an inspiration—she’s a cancer vixen, not its victim.

Extra Stuff:
1. Cancer Vixen Website
2. Cancer Vixen Movie

10. We are on our own, By: Mariam Katin

Synopsis/Description: A stunning memoir of a mother and her daughter's survival in WWII and their subsequent lifelong struggle with faith

In this captivating and elegantly illustrated graphic memoir, Miriam Katin retells the story of her and her Mother's escape on foot from the Nazi invasion of Budapest. With her father off fighting for the Hungarian army and the German troops quickly approaching, Katin and her mother are forced to flee to the countryside after faking their deaths. Leaving behind all of their belongings and loved ones, and unable to tell anyone of their whereabouts, they disguise themselves as a peasant woman and her illegitimate child, while literally staying a few steps ahead of the German soldiers.

We Are on Our Own is a woman's attempt to rebuild her earliest childhood trauma in order to come to an understanding of her lifelong questioning of faith. Katin's faith is shaken as she wonders how God could create and tolerate such a wretched world, a world of fear and hiding, bargaining and theft, betrayal and abuse. The complex and horrific experiences on the run are difficult for a child to understand, and as a child, Katin sees them with the simple longing, sadness, and curiosity she feels when her dog disappears or a stranger makes her mother cry.

Katin's ensuing lifelong struggle with faith is depicted throughout the book in beautiful full-color sequences.
We Are on Our Own is her first full-length graphic novel at the age of sixty-three.

Extra Stuff: 
1. Miriam Katin's Sketch blog (I like her drawings)

11. Opposable Thumbs, By: Dean Haspiel 

Synopsis: In Opposable Thumbs, Haspiel unfolds existential, uproarious, compassionate stories full of personal wisdom. Even the bleakest and grubbiest settings are lovingly, lusciously rendered by Haspiel's sharp brush in one of the most recognizable styles in alternative comics, and "quiet" domestic scenes veritably simmer with graphic impact. Thoroughly conquering the territory Dean began to explore in the critically acclaimed two-man anthology Keyhole (with Josh Neufeld), Opposable Thumbs looks like the new front-runner in autobiographical storytelling. 

Extra Stuff:
1. Indie world Article on "Opposable thumbs"

12. Six Feet under (Not a Graphic Novel, but check it out!)

Apparently Fun Home fans should watch the show "Six Feet Under". This is the synopsis provided by (Internet, Movie, Database)

"A drama series that takes a darkly comical look at members of a dysfunctional family that runs an independent funeral home. With the prodigal elder son (Nate) returning home for the holidays to shattering news, the family must learn to deal with a death of their own, while figuring out how to go ahead with the business of the living. A funny and emotional look at a grieving American family...that just happens to be in the grief management business. Written by <>
Nathaniel Fisher, his wife Ruth, and their children David and Claire run a small funeral business that offers the best care to be found anywhere close by. Prodigal son Nate Jr. arrives home for Christmas just as his father is killed by a bus, and has to stick around when he and David are willed the funeral service together. How does a family who helps others deal with grief deal with its ownWritten by rmlohner"
Wow the similarities!! Dark comedy, dysfunctional family, a funny and emotional look at a grieving American Family, run a small funeral business, his father is killed by a bus. 

Post By: Leanne Lau


  1. Hey Leanne!

    Awesome post! Very informative and wonderfully visually organized.

    I collect graphic comics and there are some you mentioned that I've never come across before which is great since now I got something to look into. (Gah - more expenses.) Well, the ones I've read were Persepolis and Blankets. Those two were excellent reads.

    Persepolis was something that I could quite relate to. Since I used to live in an Arab country, I understood her Islamic references which gave the story so much more meaning to me.
    Though I'm not a Muslim, I relate because I'm female and being female in a Muslim country is very hard. If you haven't read this one yet, you can get a hold of this book in our school library.

    As Persepolis revolves with Islam, this one's with Christianity. Blankets was a weird one. I dreaded the long Bible quotes and religious references but still enjoyed it nonetheless. The story's very deep. His illustrations are beautiful and his brush works were very expressive.

    Anyway, there's a website I signed up to which I recommend people who enjoy reading to join. Not sure if you've come across it already but it's called GoodReads. There you could track which books you've read and the ones you want to read. You could write your own review on the book, rate it and view other people's recommendations. The link provided leads to a list of most-read graphic novels.

    Heather Agoncillo

  2. Fascinating! I'm current;y taking a class called "Visual Narrative" and my prof basically brings in 3 new graphic novels every class and lets us have a look. I have to admit, I never read one until Fun Home because they're not my thing, but I am growing to love them!

    Something I DO love though, are Asaf Hanuka's "Realist Comics".

    It's his blog in which he posts a new comic each week. There's hundreds! He's Tomer Hanuka's brother, and they also grew up in Islam, so you might find their work interesting, Heather!

    - Sabrina