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Journal, Letters, and Photographs

Picture a Life: Graphic Memoirs

March 2016

As librarians, we all know and value the power of the written word. And I’m sure we have all heard the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.”  But have you ever imagined how much more powerful it can be to tell a story using both words and pictures?

I know there are people who look down on “comic books” and feel that books in graphic format are somehow “less than” books with no pictures. I’m just not sure that these people are aware of the incredible amount of work that is involved in creating a well-done graphic novel or memoir.

When you’re reading a good graphic novel or memoir, the words and pictures flow in tandem, and you are absorbed into the work. This immersive experience may feel effortless to you, but it doesn’t happen by accident. A good artist spends a lot of time designing the layout of the page to ensure that your eyes follow the dialogue and action in a way that makes sense of the story. If you’re interested in learning more about the complexity of creating a graphic novel, I highly recommend a fascinating book called Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud.

I’ve put together a list of graphic memoirs that I think are particularly good. Many of these authors already have careers as successful cartoonists or children’s book illustrators. Using their talents, they have been able to create graphic memoirs that combine the power of pictures and words into something even greater.  If you’re not sure where to start, I highly recommend Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant, which was a finalist for the 2014 National Book Award. Cartoonist Roz Chast (you may know her from her New Yorker cartoons) wrote this funny and honest graphic memoir about caring for her elderly parents.

Happy reading!

Recommended Reads

List Created By

Mary Martin

Dennis Branch Manager, Sussex County Library System


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