[Monday Reading] Fearless Females in Graphic Novel Memoirs

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts

The female portrait is a pencil drawing done by Iphigene on paper. The whole poster was completed using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. Thank you, once again, Iphigene for this lovely poster.

These four graphic novel memoirs portray intrepid females who are shown to be in the process of becoming, as they discover who they are, and situate themselves amidst the society that they are a part of. There is the constant struggle for belonging and the journey towards self-illumination.

IMG_0327Persepolis 1 and 2

Written and Illustrated by: Marjane Satrapi
Published by: Pantheon, 2003; Pantheon, 2004 Book Awards (Persepolis 1): Harvey Awards for Best US Edition of Foreign Material (2004)ALA Alex Award (2004), Prix du Festival d’Angoulême for Alph-art du coup de coeur (2001). ISBN:037571457X (ISBN13: 9780375714573) Book Award (Persepolis 2): Prix du Festival d’Angoulême for Alph-art du meilleur scenario (2002). ISBN:0375714669 (ISBN13: 9780375714665). Book borrowed from the NIE Library. 

I will not be doing a very detailed review of these two graphic novels as Fats has already done that here. I thought, however, that it still deserved a mention especially since this is the book that my book club, Saturday Night Out for Book Geeks read this month.

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While the first volume focused on Satrapi as a very young girl born in the midst of war, the second highlighted what her life was life as a teenager when she was sent to Vienna to be safe from the uncertainties of war that was ongoing in her home country, Iran.

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The memoir depicts a sharp, inquisitive, and highly discerning mind that is unafraid to question societal norms – filled with a longing to find like-minded individuals with whom Satrapi wanted to exchange ideas with. I especially enjoyed the first novel as the cultural resonances appear quite stark as Satrapi struggles to piece together the threads that make up her country, her family, her childhood. The second volume shows all the bodily changes that accompany adolescence…

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… and the yearning for belonging in a country that does not speak one’s language, with customs so vastly different from one’s own, and considers Satrapi an intruder, a foreigner, an interesting specimen who knew what it was like to come face to face with war, violence and death. At turns dark and forbidding. the quagmire of depression is represented here in all its subtlety, vanquished by religious work-out (Satrapi actually became a fitness instructor) and a return to the university. The latter highlighted her unflappable spirit, one that dares to challenge authority, even at the risk of administrators’ ire and the displeasure of fellow students:

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It is a refreshingly candid memoir that fearlessly explored the subterranean depths of what it means to seek refuge within one’s self. We have discussed, albeit briefly, these graphic novels for my book club, Saturday Night Out for Book Geeks while trying to watch the film adaptation last Saturday. We also discussed Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey which is a highly-disturbing but ultimately soul-enriching novel.

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Calling Dr. Laura: A Graphic MemoirIMG_0321

Written and Illustrated by: Nicole J. Georges
Published by: A Mariner Original: Mariner Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013. ISBN: 0547615590 (ISBN13: 9780547615592). Borrowed from the NIE Library. 

I love black and white comics with very clear, straightforward panels that help the reader through the visual narrative. Nicole J. Georges does all this, spiced with her sharp wit, self-deprecating sentiments, and incisive self-reflections that are never too deeply-entangled but cleverly light-hearted, never really taking itself too seriously, despite its heavygoing themes about family secrets, unraveling one’s own self-identity, and coming out to a mother who obviously does not approve of same-sex relationships.

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Clearly, Georges is also quite a talented artist – see her portrayal of Portland above. As an avid fan of Grimm (the TV series), I have taken quite a liking to Portland and glad to see it depicted in this intimate fashion here as seen through Georges’ eyes. I didn’t particularly like the women she had relationships with, but enjoyed reading how she dealt with pain and betrayal with a measure of insouciant grace. The way she also depicted her roller coaster connection with her mother was quite interesting – it shows how much thought she has poured into analyzing their tumultous relationship given that she is able to perfectly discern its circular pattern (see below):

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Everything came to a head when she called a radio show host, Dr. Laura, a bible-thumping Republican, to talk about her personal issues, and to get some illumination about what she was going through.

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Whether or not she found what she was looking for, I shall leave for you to discover. Definitely a title that I would add to my list of recommended graphic novel memoirs.

IMG_0316El Deafo

Written and Illustrated byCece Bell Color by: David Lasky
Published by: Amulet Books, 2014. ISBN: 1419710206 (ISBN13: 9781419710209) Book Awards: Newbery Honor (2015), Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award Nominee (2016), Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards for Best Publication for Kids (ages 8-12) AND nominated for Best Reality-Based Work (2015), Kirkus Prize Nominee for Young Readers’ Literature (Finalist) (2014). Book borrowed from the NIE Library.

This was a surprisingly enjoyable read for me – and a particularly enlightening one as well. It reminded me of how I have quite a number of unfounded assumptions about what it means to be hearing impaired – and that I tend to see things from a normative perspective, rather than take it upon myself to get into the skin of another to understand what they are going through. Perhaps like most people, there is a tendency to assume that those who are unable to hear simply require one to speak louder for them to understand the words that they are saying, not realizing that volume is not really so much the issue here but comprehensibility:

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This truly provided me with a world of insight as to what it means to be hearing impaired. Yet, despite this, the graphic novel didn’t really feel too heavy-handed. It’s really an exploration of Cece Bell’s constructed memories of what it was like for her as a young girl, her struggles to find friends, fit in, and get along with people who do not make such a catastrophe of her disability or regard her as a sidekick to their own personal dramas. There is that thin line that she has to tread between being assertive, standing up for herself, and still keeping the people she enjoyed being with:

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I like how clear-sighted and matter-of-fact she was in sharing her narrative, and always with a dab of humour, and marked with a recurrent play that goes on in her head, whereby she portrays herself as a kind of superhero vanquishing the know-it-alls and the bossy creatures around her, putting them firmly in place, while her real self says “Yeah, I guess so” in a fairly meek voice.

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Over and above the supposed “superpowers” she got serendipitously when she discovered she could hear everything that her teacher is saying with her hearing aide (and the teacher wearing the mic while on the school grounds), I thought that this was a great graphic novel that talks about coming into one’s self (see above: “Am I deafo too?”) and finding friends regardless of perceived differences. I can see why this won the Newbery. For teachers who wish to use this in the classroom, here is a free downloadable PDF link from adl.org that you can refer to for possible activities.

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Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years: 11/24

Currently Reading…

I am very pleased to share that I have finished reading Truthwitch by Susan Dennard which I will be featuring very soon. This novel has truly made me feel very excited, and I can’t wait to read the second novel in this series.

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I also finished reading We Are All Made Of Molecules by Susin Nielsen, which has made me laugh out loud several times. I am featuring this novel for our upcoming reading theme. Finished reading it in two nights, it’s that good.

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This week, I am hoping to finish just finished reading Lion Island: Cuba’s Warrior of Words by Margarita Engle last night – I received an autographed advance reader’s copy last Saturday – and I am truly grateful for it.

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And I think, it’s also the perfect time to finally dip into Pax by Sara Pennypacker.

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15 Comments on [Monday Reading] Fearless Females in Graphic Novel Memoirs

  1. I liked We Are All Made of Molecules much more than I thought I would. It was funny but serious as well. I’ll have to look into some of the graphic novels. My daughter’s senior language arts class is reading Persepolis.

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  2. I loved Persepolis but don’t think I’ve read the second book. El Deafo is one I want to read too. It sounds really good. I will have to check out We Are All Made Out of Molecules. I’m not familiar with it.

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  3. I loved the first Persepolis, still have not read the second one. Calling Dr. Laura sounds intriguing, and I loved El Deafo. Would love to have a copy of Lion Island, lucky you, Myra. Margarita’s books are just wonderful!

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  4. Persepolis has been on my to read list for ages. I’m so glad to read your review here. It’s making me dig around for it and hopefully read it this week. I am green with envy that you have a copy of Lion Island: Cuba’s Warrior of Words. I love her writing!

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  5. I have barely read anything by Margarita Engle–really need to remedy that! I love both Persepolises and often teach one or both. El Deafo is one that I’ve taught quite a bit too. Everyone loves it, and it’s a great intro to graphic novels for those who are new to the format. I liked Calling Dr Laura but didn’t love–though I did like the illustration style quite a bit.

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  6. I really need to read more of Engle’s works. I’ve enjoyed the ones I’ve read and all her other books seem interesting.

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  7. Love to hear what you think of Pax! El Deafo is very popular in my classroom – of course because of being a graphic novel but also because there is so much in there to love.

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  8. What a fantastic collection! I loved El Deafo – always happy to see more diverse stories being told and celebrated. 🙂

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  9. El Deafo is one of our favorite graphic novels. We can’t wait to hear your thoughts about Pax – It is a very interesting read.

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  10. El Deafo is such a popular book with my students. I have another book in my classroom that one of my students takes home over and over again. It’s an early reader type book called Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover. I just realized that Cece Bell is the author of this book, too.

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  11. I really want to read the Persepolis books. I intend to try to find them at the library soon. I’ve been meaning to read them for so long! I am looking forward to hearing what you think about Pax. I saw it at the library, but I forced myself to leave it because I have so many books to review these next few weeks!

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  12. I’m jealous of the Engle ARC. 😉 I didn’t realize there was a movie adaptation of Persepolis.

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  13. Love all the photos.

    Have a wonderful week this week.

    Elizabeth
    Silver’s Reviews
    My It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

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  14. Got to read Persepolis and El Deafo. I feel like I’m behind!!

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  15. Gorgeous illustrations for interesting books. Enjoy! Thanks for sharing…and for visiting my blog.

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2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. [Saturday Reads] Book Riot Read Harder Challenge Progress – Gathering Books
  2. [Monday Reading] When Graphic Novelists Turn Picturebook Creators: Cece Bell’s “Chuck and Woodchuck” and Vera Brosgol’s “Leave Me Alone” – Gathering Books

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