Graphic Memoirs and Biographies

Graphic memoirs and biographies at OPL.

Lately I've been reading graphic memoirs and biographies. I like the experience of reading both words and images. I find that the images deepen the story and help to complete the text. Listed below are a few newer titles that I've read or that are on my to-read list. All are available for check-out.  

The Best We Could Do     Poppies of Iraq     Fetch     Diary of a Reluctant Dreamer     

Duran Duran Imelda Marcos and Me     Billie Holiday     Portugal     Saigon Calling

The best we could do : an illustrated memoir / Thi Bui
Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves. At the heart of Bui’s story is a universal struggle: While adjusting to life as a first-time mother, she ultimately discovers what it means to be a parent—the endless sacrifices, the unnoticed gestures, and the depths of unspoken love. Despite how impossible it seems to take on the simultaneous roles of both parent and child, Bui pushes through. With haunting, poetic writing and breathtaking art, she examines the strength of family, the importance of identity, and the meaning of home.

Poppies of Iraq / cowritten by Brigitte Findakly & Lewis Trondheim ; drawn by Lewis Trondheim ; colored by Brigette Findakly ; translated by Helge Dascher
Poppies of Iraq is Brigitte Findakly’s nuanced tender chronicle of her relationship with her homeland Iraq, co-written and drawn by her husband, the acclaimed cartoonist Lewis Trondheim. In spare and elegant detail, they share memories of her middle class childhood touching on cultural practices, the education system, Saddam Hussein’s state control, and her family’s history as Orthodox Christians in the arab world. Poppies of Iraq is intimate and wide-ranging; the story of how one can become separated from one’s homeland and still feel intimately connected yet ultimately estranged.

Fetch : how a bad dog brought me home : a graphic memoir / Nicole J. Georges   
When Nicole Georges was sixteen she adopted Beija, a dysfunctional shar-pei/corgi mix—a troublesome combination of tiny and attack, just like teenaged Nicole herself. For the next fifteen years, Beija would be the one constant in her life. Through depression, relationships gone awry, and an unmoored young adulthood played out against the backdrop of the Portland punk scene, Beija was there, wearing her “Don’t Pet Me” bandana. Georges’s gorgeous graphic novel Fetch chronicles their symbiotic, codependent relationship and probes what it means to care for and be responsible to another living thing—a living thing that occasionally lunges at toddlers. Nicole turns to vets, dog whisperers, and even a pet psychic for help, but it is the moments of accommodation, adaption, and compassion that sustain them. Nicole never successfully taught Beija “sit,” but in the end, Beija taught Nicole how to stay.

Diary of a reluctant dreamer : undocumented vignettes from a pre-American life / Alberto Ledesma      
Exploring Ledesma’s experiences from immigrant to student to academic, Diary of a Reluctant Dreamer presents a humorous, gritty, and multilayered portrait of undocumented immigrant life in urban America. Ledesma’s vignettes about life in the midst of ongoing social trauma give voice to a generation that has long been silent about its struggles. Delving into the key moments of cultural transition throughout his childhood and adulthood—police at the back door waiting to deport his family, the ex-girlfriend who threatens to call INS and report him, and the interactions with law enforcement even after he is no longer undocumented—Ledesma, through his art and his words, provides a glimpse into the psychological and philosophical concerns of undocumented immigrant youth who struggle to pinpoint their identity and community.  

Duran Duran, Imelda Marcos, and me : a graphic memoir / by Lorina Mapa 
When she learns of her beloved father's fatal car accident, Mapa flies to Manila to attend his funeral. His sudden death sparks childhood memories. Weaving the past with the present, Mapa entertains with stories about religion, pop culture, adolescence, social class and politics, including her experiences of the 1986 People Power Revolution which made headlines around the world. It is a love letter to her parents, family, friends, country of birth, and in the end, perhaps even to herself.        

Billie Holiday / Muñoz & Sampayo ; [translated by Katy MacRae, Robert Boyd, and Kim Thompson]
Born in Philadelphua in 1915, and dead too early in New York in 1959, Billie Holiday became a legendary jazz singer, even mythical. With her voice even now managing to touch so many people, we follow a reporter on the trail of the artist on behalf of a New York daily. Beyond the public scandals that marred the life of the star (alcohol, drugs, violence...), he seeks to restore the truth, revisiting the memory of Billie. Through this investigation, Muñoz and Sampayo trace, through the undertones of racism, and in the wake of the blues, the slow drift of a singer who expressed the deepest emotions in jazz. By internationally renowned Argentine artists, featuring Muñoz' strikingly raw heavy blacks, this is not just a biography but a spell-binding art book tribute.

Portugal / Pedrosa ; color by Pedrosa and Ruby ; translated by Montana Kane ; lettering by Calix Ltd
Comics artist Simon Muchat is stuck. Suffering writer’s block, uninspired, vegetating as a school art teacher, he is losing direction and his taste for life, until one day he is invited to appear at a comics convention in Portugal, the country his family came from and which he hadn’t seen since his childhood. Even though he is a foreigner there, so many elements of the country are familiar to him. Meeting its lively citizens and recounting early memoreis brought by back his distant yet welcoming family all prove reinvigorating—the breath of fresh air he so badly needed. Based on his own experience, Pedrosa narrates this return to his roots in a deeply compelling and warmly human way. 

Saigon calling : London 1963-75 / Marcelino Truong ; translated by David Homel
In this sequel to Such a Lovely Little War (2016), young Marcelino and his family move from Saigon to London in order to escape the war following the assassination of South Vietnamese President Diem, for whom Marcelino's diplomat father was a personal interpreter.In London, his father struggles to build a new life for his children and his wife, whose bipolar spells are becoming increasingly violent. But for Marco and his siblings, swinging London is an exciting place to be: a new world of hedonists and hippies. At the same time, the news from their grandparents in Vietnam grows ever grimmer as the war intensifies and American involvement becomes increasingly muddied. Young Marcelino finds himself conflicted between embracing the peace-loving anti-war demonstrators and the strong, sentimental bond he feels toward a wounded Vietnam, whose conflict is not as simple as the demonstrators make it out to be.

All descriptions are provided by the publishers.

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