I used to be able to say that graphic novels were outside my comfort zone and a new reading endeavor for me. Now that I’m on my third post about graphic novels written by women (here are one and two) and the umpteenth one that mentions the genre, I don’t think I’m able to truthfully make that statement any longer.
My graphic novel journey began six years ago, when I was new to the First Floor and felt I needed to be more familiar with the format, in order to be able to talk to library customers about them. Fast forward and I now find myself reading more graphic novels than almost any other genre. They fit my lifestyle and, for the most part, make me laugh. I enjoy seeing myself in their stories and pictures. Plus, I am still the type of person that likes pictures in books. Bonus is that I can now comfortably discuss and recommend graphic novels to anyone. There’s such a wide variety of topics available in this format, that there is literally something that could appeal to anyone and everyone.
So here’s what I’ve been reading lately:
The Voyeurs by Gabrielle Bell – Based on the title, I thought this book might be more titillating that it turned out to be. (I’ve read some that are for sure!) Turns out we are the voyeurs observing the author’s life. But also, she’s the voyeur observing, and possibly over-analyzing, her own life. This book made me glad that I’m not an artist or author. It seems that the self-doubt and paranoia can be soul-crushing. Kudos to all of those who are able to overcome these feeling and produce the works we all enjoy. Bonus feature: There was a brief appearance by my second favorite graphic novelist!
Journal: February 2011-October 2012 by Julie Delporte – This peek into the daily life of an artist in post-break-up status is raw, but visually beautiful. She purposefully shies away from using black in her doodling and journaling pallet because it’s safe, and the last things she feels, or wants to feel currently, is safe. Her little drawings on each page are miniature works of art. The daily entries are akin to stream of consciousness writing at times. Watching her journey to discovering herself as an artist is intellectually satisfying.
Girl in Dior by Annie Goetzinger – This book is visually stunning from cover to cover. It is a pictorial synopsis of designer Christian Dior’s career, from his first collection as a solo designer to his untimely death, through the eyes of one of his “young ladies”, which is what his runway models were called. Although the protagonist in the story is fictional, the other people, and most importantly, the designs pictured are factual. This book was originally published in French and is basically a love letter to Dior and everything he represented. A timeline of his life, short biographies’ of his well-known associates and supporters, list of all his fashion collections and glossary of fashion terms are included at the end. I leave you with these parting words from Christian Dior’s Little Dictionary of Fashion (1954), “Uncomfortable shoes will alter your gait and harm your elegance.” Truer words were never spoken.
But I Really Wanted to Be an Anthropologist by Margaux Motin – True to life comics of the days, and nights, of a fashion-obsessed, French wife and mother of a young girl. Watch her try to “hint” to her husband what she wants for her birthday, navigate life with a preschooler who parrots the words of her mother at the most inopportune times and deal with her post-pregnancy body. This book talks to you like you’re one of her girlfriends. And since she lives in Paris, that’s what I want to be!
On Loving Women by Diane Obomsawin – In this collection of stories, French Canadian lesbians tell their tales about realizing their sexual orientation, first loves, and first “times.” They are all variations on a theme, but each individual follows a slightly different route. If you can get over the people in each story being replaced by anthropomorphized animal-like creatures, you’ll discover very human tales of coming-out and becoming comfortable with yourself.
The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: A Novel in Pictures by Caroline Preston – Opening this book is like discovering your great-grandmother’s scrapbook in the attic. You can’t help yourself. You sit right down in place and begin flipping through the pages — marveling at the assortment of old photographs and clippings from magazines and newspapers. What’s even better is that there’s a story here for you to read. You don’t have to try and figure out the meaning of the ticket stub, the pressed flower or that scrap of fabric. Before you know it, you’ve spent the better part of the afternoon absorbed in another time period. And you realize you’ve been rooting for the scrapbook keeper to find fame, fortune and love.
Will You Still Love Me if I Wet the Bed by Liz Prince – Liz is one of my top four favorite graphic artists/novelists right now. (The others being Lucy Knisley, who is number one; Jeffrey Brown, as you already have learned above, is number two; and the team of Hubert and Kerascoët are number four, just FYI.) This book is super short, a small, graphic novel that is full of laughs. It took me less than an hour to read, but I kept stopping to show comics to my boyfriend, accompanied by comments like, “This is TOTALLY us!” and “You’ve/I’ve done this on more than one occasion.” This is a hilarious and sweet look at relationships and it doesn’t hurt that my second favorite graphic artist drew the preface!
P.S. Turns out that I unknowingly had a theme this time. Four of the seven books above were originally published in another language and subsequently translated into English. We have graphic novels from all countries. Fun fact!