The Art of Graphic Novel Memoir

spiegelman_co-mix_posterExciting times at the Vancouver Art Gallery:  From now until June 9th, 2013 the Vancouver Art Gallery is hosting a retrospective of Art Spiegelman’s work.  The exhibition is well worth a visit and covers the breadth of Spiegelman’s work from underground comics to New Yorker covers and everything in between.  While I was very excited by the wall that paid tribute to his days drawing Garbage Pail Kids’ cards (I still have my collection. I keep it in a pouch I sewed in Family Studies class especially for them), it was the reams of preparatory sketches for the Pulitzer Prize winning Maus that really held my interest.  Reading Maus for the first time was, for me, and many others, when I realized that comics could do more than tell an entertaining story (preferably with lots of THWOKs and KA-BLAMs).  In honour of this exhibition, I’d like to invite you to take a look at some of the other memorable graphic novel memoirs in our collection:


Fun HomeFun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel: Like Maus, Bechdel’s memoir centers around the narrator’s relationship with her father.  Dear old dad has a secret that isolates him from his family; he is gay.  This memoir charts Alison’s relationship with her father from early experiences playing airplane together, to her own coming out.  A beautiful mix of comedy and heartbreak.


Paying for ItPaying for It: A Comic-Strip Memoir About Being a John by Chester Brown: It’s sex vs. romantic love in this searingly honest graphic novel memoir.  After the demise of his long-term romantic relationship, Chester Brown hangs up his boyfriend hat in favour of well, paying for ‘it.’  Will he find the satisfaction and contentment he’s been looking for?


PyongyangPyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle: I am so totally never going to North Korea, but I remain curious about it:  What goes on there?  What do people’s daily lives look like?  What would an outsider’s experience of North Korea be like?  Guy Delisle was sent to Pyongyang to work for a French animation company.  This graphic novel is his insightful look inside life in the “Axis of Evil.”


MarblesMarbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me by Ellen Forney: Written by a woman who initially describes herself as having “bipolar tendencies” without being “bipolar bipolar.”  (Needless to say, she’s diagnosed with bipolar disorder).  This work chronicles Fornay’s struggle to hang on to her passion and identity as she comes to terms with her condition.


PersepolisPersepolis:  The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Sartrapi: Even though Persepolis is a bit of a sensation in its own right, I feel like I can no more leave it out of a posting on Graphic Novel memoirs than I could leave out Maus; it just feels wrong.  An unforgettable look at a young girl’s childhood in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.




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