Book Talks: Graphic Memoirs

I have gotten back into reading graphic stories again. Last month I apparently had an unofficial theme: Graphic memoirs. I read a few of them this month and wanted to highlight some of my recent graphic memoir reads in a special Quick Picks Book Talk post. So here we go!

Book Talks: Graphic Memoirs A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return by Zeina Abirached, Edward Gauvin.
Published by Graphic Universe on September 1st 2012. 188 pages.

When Zeina was born, the civil war in Lebanon had been going on for six years, so it's just a normal part of life for her and her parents and her little brother. The city of Beirut is cut in two, separated by bricks and sandbags and threatened by snipers and shelling. East Beirut is for Christians, and West Beirut is for Muslims. When Zeina's parents don't return one afternoon from a visit to the other half of the city, and the bombing grows ever closer, the neighbors in her apartment house create a world indoors for Zeina and her brother where it's comfy and safe, where they can share cooking lessons and games and gossip. Together they try to make it through a dramatic day in the one place they hoped they would always be safehome. Zeina Abirached, born into a Lebanese Christian family in 1981, has collected her childhood recollections of Beirut in a warm story about the strength of family and community.

I really enjoy learning history from graphic novels/memoirs, especially parts of history that I don’t know much about. Graphic memoirs feel really personal, allowing the reader to connect to the experiences being told in an immersive way. This memoir was told in a similar style to Persepolis, which I really appreciated. This story takes place over the course of one evening of random bombings, but it offers more history through exploring the backstories of all of the members of Reina’s building. This style of storytelling allowed me to sit in a room with Reina’s family and neighbors while getting to know each member in a personal way–their backstories, their hopes, and how they survive. A quick snippet into the war in Beirut.

Book Talks: Graphic Memoirs I Remember Beirut by Zeina Abirached.
Published by Graphic Universe on October 1st 2014. Paperback: 96 pages.
Genres: Comics & Graphic Novels, Diverse Characters & Stories, Memoir

Zeina Abirached, author of the award-winning graphic novel A Game for Swallows, returns with a powerful collection of wartime memories.
Abirached was born in Lebanon in 1981. She grew up in Beirut as fighting between Christians and Muslims divided the city streets. Follow her past cars riddled with bullet holes, into taxi cabs that travel where buses refuse to go, and on outings to collect shrapnel from the sidewalk.
With striking black-and-white artwork, Abirached recalls the details of ordinary life inside a war zone.

A companion to A Game for Swallows, I Remember Beirut is a collection of memories. From one page to the next, Reina takes us through her childhood memoirs of the Lebanese Civil war through a series of “I remember” statements. These memoirs range from things she saw walking to school to the complex emotions of living in a war zone. The illustrations are beautiful, the storytelling is compelling, and new knowledge is learned on every page.

Both of these books should be in your library.

Book Talks: Graphic Memoirs Becoming Unbecoming by Una.
Published by Myriad Editions on September 30th 2015. Paperback: 224 pages.
Genres: Comics & Graphic Novels, Memoir

A devastating personal account of gender violence told in comic book form, set against the backdrop of the 1970s Yorkshire Ripper man-hunt
It’s 1977 and Una is 12. Other kids are into punk or ska, but Una is learning to play "Mull of Kintyre" by Wings on the guitar, and she thinks it’s a really good song. There's another song, chanted on the terraces by Leeds United fans. It might not have made it on to Top of the Pops, but the boys all sing it on the walk home from school: "One Yorkshire Ripper . . . There’s only one Yorkshire Ripper . . . One Yorkshire Ri-pper . . ."  A serial murderer is at large in West Yorkshire and the police—despite spending more than two million man-hours hunting the killer and interviewing the man himself no less than nine times—are struggling to solve the case. As this national news story unfolds around her, Una finds herself on the receiving end of a series of violent acts for which she feels she is to blame. Unbecoming explores gender violence, blame, shame, and social responsibility. Through image and text Una asks what it means to grow up in a culture where male violence goes unpunished and unquestioned. With the benefit of hindsight Una explores her experience, wonders if anything has really changed and challenges a global culture that demands that the victims of violence pay its cost.

Completely heartbreaking and powerfully informative, Una’s memoir talks about her experiences growing up in a culture that was obsessed with a serial rapist murderer in 1970s Yorkshire, Britain. This memoir addresses the power of societal thoughts imposed on girls as they grow up. Una experienced an assault when she was younger, but in a culture that accepted assaults against women as some sick source of entertainment, Una did not get the support she needed. This memoir addresses gender, shaming, assault, and societal norms by adding information and statistics to teach readers about the severity of these issues. A powerful and important read that will break your heart.

Book Talks: Graphic Memoirs March: Book Three (March, #3) by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell.
Published by Top Shelf Productions on August 2nd 2016. Paperback: 256 pages.
Genres: Nonfiction, Memoir

Welcome to the stunning conclusion of the award-winning and best-selling MARCH trilogy. Congressman John Lewis, an American icon and one of the key figures of the civil rights movement, joins co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell to bring the lessons of history to vivid life for a new generation, urgently relevant for today's world.

The powerful conclusion to a very eye-opening reading experience. This is a civil rights biography trilogy for young adults that depicts the harsh realities of our history in a way that is educating, enlightening, and empowering. Book three was up against some stiff competition for the National Book Award for Youth literature, but this book was awarded that prestige because it is worthy of it (obviously, because it won 4 more awards!) Personally, this account of history taught me a lot more about this time in our history than I ever knew. It is a powerful teaching tool and a series that every human should read.


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