Hey all – it’s Visual Tuesday!

I’m going to talk today about how graphic novels have become an excellent way to discuss more difficult topics, both in and outside the classroom.  More and more frequently, graphic novels are being used as tools to broach large intimidating topics with students who may be sensitive or hesitant to ask questions, who may grapple with concentrating on a large block of text, or who struggle to see the “larger picture” when talking about topics like internment, war, grave illness, or gender politics.

Comics and graphic novels owe a lot of their literary street cred to Maus.

The gold standard everyone points to is Maus, Art Spiegelman’s Pulizter Prize masterpiece, in which he recounts his fathers surviving the Holocaust.  Spiegelman drew all Jews as mice, Germans as cats, Americans as dogs, ethnic Poles (Spiegelman’s father was a Polish Jew, so was depicted as a mouse) as pigs, the French as poodles and so on.  Drawing the atrocities carried out by the Germans against the Jewish people as anthropomorphic cats killing mice (albeit in the same brutal, human ways the Nazis employed) allows students and other readers to immediately identify the allegiance of any character, as well as discuss the tragic violence with visuals so that the sheer number of victims and breadth of the tragedy could be accounted for in the absence of his father having any documents that survived the war, outside of his memories.

I’ve compiled a list of some of my personal favorite “difficult” graphic novels by topic.

 CancerVixen, Stitches, Our Cancer Year, The Story of My Tits, Black Hole, Epileptic, The Infinite Wait

Mental Health Issues:  Hyperbole and a Half, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, My Friend Dahmer, The Imposter’s Daughter, Inside Out

War:  Maus, Persepolis, Fax from Sarajevo, Boxers and Saints, Aya

Coming of Age:  Blankets, Fun Home, Everything is Teeth, Ivy, Calling Dr. Laura, Make Me a Woman, Ghost World

Racism:  March, King, American Born Chinese, Leaf, Seven Sons, Incognegro

LGBTQ+ Issues:  Stuck Rubber Baby, Snapshots of a Girl, Transposes, Skim, Tomboy, Honor Girl, Blue is the Warmest Color

I’d love to hear about some of your favorite titles in the comments below!

Love and Pathogens,