Blogs: Comics/Graphic novels

rainbow pride flag
The beautiful thing about young people is that they react to the world around them through wonder, imagination, and questions...lots and lots of questions. In June, some of these questions may have something to do with Pride Month and what it means to be LGBTQ+.**

  • “What’s with all the rainbows?”
  • “Why is it called ‘Pride Month?’”  
  • “What do all those letters stand for?” **

Some of us are more familiar with Pride - and more comfortable talking about it - than others, so we put together some helpful tips for having those conversations during June and beyond.  

Read Up 

Dive into the historical significance of the Pride Movement and Stonewall Rebellion in June 1969, and learn about the significance of the Pride flag. For a kid-friendly history to read and talk about together, check out Stonewall: a Building, a History by Rob Sanders, with illustrations by Jamey Christoph. Check out recommended fiction featuring LGBTQ+ characters, or memoirs written by LGBTQ+ writers. Curious about how to use they/them pronouns? There’s a graphic novel guide for you! Browse the reading lists below for more titles that may interest your family.    

Listen to (and Learn from) Queer Voices

There are also excellent resources online to help parents and caregivers explore Pride and LGBTQ+ identity openly and honestly with kids. Our favorite is the Queer Kids Stuff Youtube series from LGBTQ+ activist Lindsay Amer, the self-described “Queer Mr. Rogers.” We love how this series (with four seasons of episodes!) explores topics like gender identity and how to be a good ally.  

Celebrate! 

Portland Pride Parade is happening virtually this year on Sunday, June 20 at 11 am. 

Drag Queen Storytime with Poison Waters on Thursday, June 24 at 12 pm. Join us for this special storytime featuring the fabulous Poison Waters reading stories about inclusion and diversity. Register via the link above to join via Zoom.  

Support LGBTQ+ Youth

Youth who identify as LGBTQ+ benefit from a supportive network of family, friends, and peers. Check out our recent article We <3 LGBTQ+ Kids and Teens! for some organizations and resources that can help provide that support.

This article is part of our “Talking with kids” series, as featured in our monthly newsletter. Reach out to us at learning@multcolib.org if you need more support or have questions. We’re here for you!



**LGBTQ+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning. The + is meant to include all gender identities and sexual orientations not covered by the other letters. Read What Does LGBTQ+ Mean? for more information.

We’ve been reading a lot of memoirs around here lately.  There’s something magical about them, in how intimate and revealing they can be.  Writers of memoirs don’t always include the whole story, but there is an underlying assumption of honesty.  When we read memoirs, we can trust we're getting to know someone, and maybe even ourselves, a little bit better.    

The word “memoir” comes from the French word mémoire, which means “memory.”  It’s just you and the author’s voice, sharing impressions of their memories.  Suddenly, you’re in their world, going deeper with every page you turn.  Reading a memoir offers a unique opportunity to really connect with someone without having to talk to them.  Or, in the case of public figures, it offers an opportunity to learn more about someone you admire, but may never meet.  

Some of our favorite memoirs lately have been graphic memoirs, or autobiographical comics, combining words and visuals to reveal memories.  We enjoy finding diversity in experiences and perspectives in our favorite graphic memoirs.  Whether we’re reading about someone battling an eating disorder, or someone growing up in South Korea in the 1980s, we love getting to know fascinating people through these beautifully drawn and written graphic memoirs!

This article was written for our Family Newsletter, brought to you by Home Learning Support and available in English and Spanish. Please sign up here and you can email us at learning@multcolib.org with any questions.

Looking for more tips on what to read next?  Check out our My Librarian readers advisory service and contact us for more ideas!

sign that says, "my pronouns are ____/ _____"
Youth who identify as LGBTQ+* benefit from a supportive network of family, friends, and peers, especially during times of stress and isolation.  Here are some organizations and resources that can help provide that support.

Local Resources for LGBTQ+ youth

  • Sexual & Gender Minority Youth Resource Center (SMYRC) has served local youth since 1998.  They provide empowerment, community building, education and direct services. 
  • Oregon Youthline is a local 24-hour youth crisis and support service.  Help is available via phone, text, email, or chat.  Youthline is staffed by trained teen volunteers from 4-10 pm daily.
  • GSA Network supports Gender & Sexualities Alliance (GSA)  groups that unite LGBTQ+ youth and their peers.  They also provide tips on how to run virtual GSAs.
  • Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) Oregon chapter of the national organization that supports every student’s right to a safe, supportive education. 
  • Pride Northwest has a mission: to encourage and celebrate the positive diversity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans communities, and to assist in the education of all people through the development of activities that showcase the history, accomplishments, and talents of these communities.

 

neon rainbow with "Love is Love" signs in the background
Virtual Resources for LGBTQ+ youth and those who support them

  • Gender Spectrum free online support groups for LGBTQ+ youth, parents and caregivers.  Groups also offered for parents/caregivers in Spanish.
  • Q Chat Space a safe space for LGBTQ+ teens to connect
  • Trevor Support Center provides resources and counseling via phone and chat. TrevorSpace is an international community for LGBTQ+ young people. 
  • PFLAG is the nation's largest family and ally organization, founded in 1973 after the simple act of a mother publicly supporting her gay son.
  • It Gets Better Project over 60,000 diverse video stories, all on a single theme.
  • Trans 101: Gender Diversity Crash Course helps people better understand what it means to be trans, and how we make the world a safer and happier place for trans and gender diverse people.  Available as a video series or booklet.
  • An age-by-age guide to talking to your kids about gender from Today's Parent.  No matter your kid's age, it's not too early (or late!) to talk to them about gender. Here's how to start the discussion, and keep it going as they grow.  

 

LGBTQ+ Booklists

Support can also come in the form of reading books and watching media with LGBTQ+ representation.   Your library is full of books for kids and teens that feature LGBTQ+ characters.  Explore the reading lists below, or ask us for a recommendation

*LGBTQ+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning.  The + is meant to include all gender identities and sexual orientations not covered by the other letters.  Read What Does LGBTQ+ Mean? for more information.

book cover for maggie the machanic

Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez are the most prolific Chicano graphic novelists in the US. Their work wrestles with topics that are not “Chicano Movement” issues, per se, and it debunks stereotypes such as those of the Latino gangbanger and the omnibenevolent abuelita.

Their work instead captures the immigrant experience as well as the second-generation Mexican-American experience, which are full of contradictions, complexities, and some happy endings. The stories of their fictional characters are not only mundane and exciting and surreal and real, but if we consider when they were first published in the 1980s, they were ahead of their time.

Pri is an Indian-American teen living a pretty ordinary life: she loves drawing comics, eating Indian food, and watching Bollywood films with her family. One thing isn’t ordinary in Pri’s life, and that’s how her mom absolutely refuses to talk about India or Pri’s father -- whom she left there before Pri was born.

One afternoon, an old trunk tumbles out of Pri's closet, and in it she finds a beautiful sari that she wraps around her shoulders. And in that second, her world turns from a dull black and white to gorgeous technicolor. This sari transports her to the India of her dreams, filled with delicious dosas and breathtaking scenery. But a dark shadow begins to follow her there, and not everything is what it seems. Pri will have to be braver and bolder than she’s ever been before to track down the sari’s secret, and her family’s history. This heartwarming graphic novel about the power of our choices is a great read for strong young girls, and for those in need a bit of strength. 

Hey, everyone, I'm David F. Walker. I write graphic novels (or if you prefer, comic books — it's all the same to me). I grew up reading comics (mostly Marvel), and to this day, I still love the medium. At any given time, I have stacks of comics and graphic novels all over my home, waiting to be read and reread. I'm a sucker for a good Young Adult novel, as I also dabble in YA. I love history, so I often spend what little free time I have watching documentaries. When I am not reading or writing comic books, I'm a filmmaker, journalist, and educator. My work includes Power Man and Iron Fist, Nighthawk (Marvel), Shaft: A Complicated Man, Shaft’s Revenge (Dynamite), Cyborg (DC), Number 13 (Dark Horse Comics), and the YA novel, Super Justice Force: The Adventures of Darius Logan, Book One.

Here are my picks:

The Absolutely True Diary of Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Perhaps the greatest book I have ever read. There isn’t much more than that to say. It makes me laugh out loud. It makes me cry. It makes me want to be a better writer.

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang

Two incredible examples of the storytelling possibilities found in the graphic novel medium, which serve as companion pieces to a larger story. I recommend reading Boxers first, but that’s not as important as reading both.

Eyes on the Prize – DVD

Produced back in the 1980s, this multi-part PBS documentary is the greatest jumping-off point for learning about the Civil Rights in America. In a perfect world, families of all stripes would sit and watch this together.

Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness

I love a good YA book (perhaps because I suffer from a case of arrested development). Whatever the case. The Chaos Walking series (The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, Monsters of Men) is probably my favorite YA series. Ness is an incredible writer, and this series is riveting.

Will Eisner’s New York – Life in the Big City by Will Eisner

My absolute favorite comic book creator of all time, Eisner is best known for creating The Spirit, and some historians credit him with creating what we now know as the graphic novel. This collection of stories is the Eisner I love the most – a brilliant example of how image and text can become literature.

Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick

One of my favorite comic series currently being produced, it is a hard-hitting, hilarious, radical bit of speculative fiction that finds non-complying women sentenced to a prison on another planet. DeConnick and her creative team are dangerous in the best way possible.

The Central Park Five – DVD

Living in New York City in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it is difficult to describe the climate of what it was like to be young and black in a city that feared you. The infamous Central Park Park Rape case explains it with unflinching humanity, examining the gross miscarriage of justice that occurred when five black teenagers were sent to prison for a heinous crime none of them committed.

Hip Hop Family Tree by Ed Piskor

Combining two forms of expression that I absolutely love – comic books and hip hop, Piskor’s exhaustive historical narrative is a revelation. Four volumes in, this is the graphic novel done brilliantly.

The Enemy by Charlie Higson

I saw an ad for this YA book in, of all places, a comic book. Having read Higson’s Young Bond series, I decided to give this a shot. I can only describe this as The Walking Dead meets The Lord of the Flies – and there are five more books in the series.

Concrete Park by Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander

One of the most over-looked graphic novels of the last several years, both volumes of Concrete Park are works on incredible art. Set on a planet billions of miles from Earth, where people of color and other minorities have been exiled, the series is as brutal as it is beautiful.

The Legend of the Mantamaji by Eric Dean Seaton

Eric Dean Seaton’s three-volume graphic novel series delivers to the superhero the diversity that is sadly lacking from so many other comics. The struggle to find true diversity in works of pop culture continues to be an uphill battle, but this series is a refreshing example of how to do it properly.

Slavery By Another Name – DVD

This PBS documentary is equally engrossing and heartbreaking, as it traces how slavery never really ended in the Untied States, it just became something else. This is one of those “missing” pieces of history that helps to explain the horrific inequities we see in this country, based on race and class.

A Band Called Death – DVD

On the surface, this a documentary about a forgotten proto-punk band being rediscovered after years of languishing only in the fading memories of a few people. But it is so much more. It is about family, and love, and commitment to your art, and how the key to immortality is art.

Awkward book jacket
Ah, back to school! The crisp fall days, football on Friday nights, challenging classes, and the absolute terror of starting at a new school! I switched from public to private school in 8th grade and, fortunately for me, the students were really friendly and welcoming.  I bonded with a couple of girls right away over soccer and disco, and even though our main teacher was a bit intimidating, I managed to get along with her despite being sent to the library for talking to a pal during a boring film.

Penelope (aka Peppi) has a pretty rough start when she begins classes at a new middle school.  On the first morning of the first day, she manages to trip in the hallway and scatter books and papers everywhere.  When Jaime, a kind, but nerdy boy, attempts to help her and the mean kids laugh at them, she screams at him to leave her alone.  She almost instantly regrets her action, but can't seem to find a way to apologize and avoids him like the proverbial plague.  Peppi finds friends among the Art Club and things are going pretty well, but then - horror of horrors - the science teacher assigns Jaime to be her tutor!  What's a girl to do?  Skip the sessions and flunk science or just face the music?  Maybe art can meet science and have something positive emerge.  You'll have to read Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova to find out.

Are you heading back to class or just wanting to relive those days? If so, check out these graphic novels about the school experience...they've got to be more fun than a calculus textbook!

As with many pleasures,  like food, music, movies and books, we tend to find what we love and stick with that. When readers ask me for suggestions on what to read next, they usually know what they like and want to read more of it. But as with food, music, movies and other such pleasures, it never hurts to try reading something new. My something new is manga.
 
The most basic definition of manga is comics that are originally produced in Japan. Manga includes works in a wide range of genres. You can find manga translated into a variety of languages 
Manga reading direction example
but they all retain the traditional reading direction of Japanese manga, which is that is you read from right to left. If you are used to reading from left to right, manga will take a little getting used to. But believe me when I say that when you find a series that sparks your interest, reading from right to left will come easily.
 
The following three titles have been my introduction to this popular comic medium, and each one has made me finally fall in love with manga. 
 
Wandering Son book jacket
Wandering Son by Takako Shimura is a series that is hard to miss. Among a sea of similarly sized paperback manga, Wandering Son is the rare hardcover series. The story centers around a fifth grader named Shuichi Nitori who has just transferred to a new school. During their first day of school Shimura meets Yoshino and the two become instantaneous best friends. And both Shimura and Yoshino are transgender. I really love Takako’s minimal and dreamy illustration style, and that this series focuses on the elements of curiosity and discovery that go along with gender identity and puberty.
 
Black Butler book jacket
I admit that I was so excited and impatient to read Black Butler by Yana Toboso that I bought the first book. Set just outside of London during the Victorian era, this series revolves around a young noble, Ciel Phantomhive and his loyal butler Sebastian. Ciel is quite demanding and Sebastian is ever willing to oblige, to the point that it appears that Sebastian can do what no other human can. So, is Sebastian human? I love Toboso's  gothic and lush illustrations and the melding of historical fiction, mystery, and a bit of fantasy. 
 
Blue Exorcist book jacket
In Blue Exorcist by Kazue Katō you meet Rin Okumura and his twin brother Yukio. Rin and Yukio were both raised by Father Fujimoto, an exorcist. Rin has only ever known the world of his adoptive father, a world in which demons are to be fought and killed. But one day Rin finds out that both him and his brother are the sons of Satan, the most powerful demon. Rin being the stronger of the two brothers is the only one who has inherited demon powers. Determined to use his demon side for good Rin enrolls in the True Cross Academy, a school for exorcists in training. I’m a big fan of all things horror so this series immediately grabbed my attention. But I also love the dabs of comedy that are played out in the sibling rivalry between Rin and Yukio.
 
I am crazy in love with these series and excited to find more manga to dive into. If you have never tried manga I hope that I can convince you to give it a try. If you are already a manga fan, I'd love to hear about your favorite titles!
 
 
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