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.”
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:
1: JUDD WINICK, “Pedro and me”, 192 pages, 2000.
gay main character | HIV prevention | activism | reality TV | gay-straight friendship | Cuban immigrants | autobiographical
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
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
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
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
queer-positive YA books with a focus on trauma, loss, bullying or teenage alienation:
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
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
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
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
super-hero books with gay and lesbian heroines:
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
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
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:
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).
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)
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)
and finally: five LGBT prose novels / literary fiction for a High School audience that I enjoyed:
- NICK BURD, “The Vast Fields of Ordinary”, 309 pages, 2009.
- STEPHEN CHBOSKY, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”, 213 pages, 1999.
- DAVID LEAVITT, “The Lost Language of Cranes”, 352 pages, 1986.
- BRIAN FRANCIS, “Natural Order”, 384 pages, 2011.
- HUBERT FICHTE, “Detlefs Imitationen: Grünspan”, 242 pages, 1971 (Link).