Terrific Canadian Graphic Literature

I started a post on graphic novels and found that I had selected all Canadian books, and they’re great. So here are my top graphic picks (3 of 5 are non-ficiton), none of which could be confused with comic books.

OutsideCircleThe Outside Circle, by Patti LaBoucane-Benson, art by Kelly Mellings

From the 2016 Canada Reads Longlist comes this striking graphic novel about Pete, a young First Nations man caught in a cycle of poverty, violence and trauma. Ending up in prison, Pete realizes that he must make changes in order to survive and to be an example for his younger brother. It’s a hard-hitting but hopeful story, beautifully illustrated and beautifully told.

Tangles: A Story about Alzheimer’s, My Mother, and Me, by Sarah LeavittTangles

Graphic storytelling might seem like a counterintuitive choice for a poignant memoir about a daughter and a family coping with the mother’s dementia, but the spare artwork and candid prose work really well here. Though it is something of a harrowing read, Leavitt manages to incorporate humour along with the tragedy. Ultimately this is a moving story of a family’s love during an excruciating time.

EssexCountyEssex County, by Jeff Lemire

This trilogy of graphic novels set in Ontario explores the Canadian psyche through community, hockey, winter, loneliness, and great art. A superhero-obsessed orphan, estranged brothers, and a community nurse draw us into this small-town world. Lemire’s spare text is beautifully wrenching and the illustrations perfectly match. By turns poignant, sad, and amusing, this is a great read.

Skim, by Mariko Tamaki and Gillian TamakiSkim

Goth teen Kimberly Keiko Cameron (aka Skim), is an outsider, a wannabe Wiccan, and in love with her female English teacher. When a classmate commits suicide, Skim descends into a depression that no guidance counselor platitude can reach. A lovely coming-of-age story with artwork derived from the best Japanese traditions. Lovely.

FatherlandFatherland, by Nina Bunjevac

This memoir / family history deals largely with the author’s father – a Serbian nationalist – whose experiences during the Second World War left him an embittered drunk. When the father dies by accidentally setting off a bomb he was preparing for a terrorist act, the family must deal with the consequences and face their unsettling history. The illustrations drive the narrative in this one and are truly extraordinary.

What’s your favourite piece of graphic lit?


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