LGBT Graphic Novels: Recommendations for Teens & Young Adults

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Good Graphic Novels for school libraries, teenagers and a Young Adult audience… with GLBTQ themes?

Over at “DC Women Kicking Ass” (Link), one of my favorite feminist super-hero blogs, author/webmaster Sue opened an interesting discussion:

“A while back, I got a request for a list of LGBQT Young Adult graphic novels for a High School library.

So far I have Young Avengers, Runaways, Pedro and Me, Tough Love, Strangers in Paradise, Skim and Batwoman.

Please let me know your recommendations and I will compile a list and publish it.

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I read lots of “literary”, more serious graphic novels this winter (recommendations here, Link), so for starters, here are some strong, personal recommendations:

Inclusive, serious, engaging titles for a young audience that will work well in a school setting / book club / discussion group:

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1: JUDD WINICK, “Pedro and me”, 192 pages, 2000.

gay main character  |  HIV prevention  | activism  | reality TV  | gay-straight friendship  | Cuban immigrants  |  autobiographical

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2: ALISON BECHDEL, “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic”, 232 pages, 2006.

lesbian narrator / main character  |  coming-of-age  | suicide  | identity politics  | family secrets  | living in the closet  |  homosexual parents  | autobiographical

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3: HOWARD CRUSE, “Stuck Rubber Baby”, 216 pages, 1995.

gay narrator / main character  |  journalism / documentary  |  coming-of-age  | civil rights  |  discrimination, politics, activism  |  1960ies small-town USA  |  pre-Stonewall

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4: DAVID SMALL, “Stitches: A Memoir”, 326 pages, 2009.

straight narrator / main character  |  throat cancer  | identity politics  |  coming-of-age | family secrets  | suicide  |  lesbian parent  |  living in the closet  |  autobiographical

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5: DAN PARENT, “Archie Comics presents: Kevin Keller”, 160 pages, 2012.

gay main character  |  middle school audience  |  coming-of-age  |  Don’t Ask Don’t Tell  |  cartoon / slice-of-life / humour  |  harmless / bowdlerized / non-sexualized

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queer-positive YA books with a focus on trauma, loss, bullying or teenage alienation:

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6: DANIEL CLOWES, “Ghost World”, 80 pages, 1998.

friendship between girls  |  alienation  |  dark humour  |  everyday life  |  post-high school career  |  small-town USA  |  hook-up culture  |  loneliness

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7: JOE KELLY, “I kill Giants”, 184 pages, 2009.

middle-school female narrator  |  alienation  |  magical realism  |  everyday life  |  friendship between girls  |  personal trauma  |  cancer  |  anger / abandonment issues

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8: SARAH LEAVITT, “Tangles: A Story about Alzheimers, my Mother and me”, 127 pages, 2010.

lesbian main character / narrator  |  Alzheimer’s  |  family secrets  |  mother-daughter-dynamics  |  loss  |  leaving for College  |  coming-of-age  |  everyday life  |  autobiographical

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9: BRYAN LEE O’MALLEY, “Lost at Sea”, 160 pages, 2003.

teenage, female main character  |  magical realism  |  coming-of-age  |  friendship  |  soul-searching  |  alienation  | road trips  |  acceptance  |  everyday life

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super-hero books with gay and lesbian heroines:

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10: GREG RUCKA, “Gotham Central: Half a Life”, 168 pages, 2005.

lesbian main character  |  police procedural  |  coming out  |  lesbian relationships  |  second-generation Puerto Ricans in the US  |  Batman  |  psychological thriller

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11: GREG RUCKA, “Batwoman: Elegy”, 176 pages, 2010.

lesbian main character  |  Batman  |  magic, monsters, horror  |  Don’t Ask Don’t Tell  |  power fantasy  |  family dynamics  |  military families  |  self-acceptance  |  loss

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in 2011, the – mediocre, crass and often poorly-written – monthly YA super-hero comic series “Teen Titans” (Link) added a gay character, Bunker (Link). I can’t recommend the series, per se. But the character has gained a vocal following, and some media attention:

Notes from Bunker, Link (Tumblr)

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another note-worthy and worthwhile read / discussion is this (Link) letter column / exchange between Marvel writer Christos Gage (Link) and an anti-gay reader unhappy with teenage gay and lesbian characters in the “Avengers Academy” series (Link).

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notable series / titles that I cannot recommend (because the LGBT part is marginal or the overall writing is too weak):

  • “Buffy: Season 8” (Joss Whedon, Link)
  • “Y: The Last Man” (Brian K. Vaughan, Link)
  • “Friends with Ghosts” (Faith Erin Hicks, Link)
  • “Scott Pilgrim” (Bryan Lee O’Malley, Link)

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titles I have not read myself, yet:

  • “Runaways” (Brian K. Vaughan, Marvel Universe, Link)
  • “Young Avengers” (Allan Heinberg, Marvel Universe, Link)
  • “Strangers in Paradise” (Terri Moore, Link)
  • “Revolutionary Girl Utena” (Chiho Saito, Manga, Link)
  • “Wandering Son” (Takako Shimura, Manga, gender-nonconforming, transsexual (?) elementary school kids, Link)

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and finally: five LGBT prose novels / literary fiction for a High School audience that I enjoyed:

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related Posts:

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