October 8, 2014

Wednesday Book Club: #WeNeedDiverse(Comic)Books recommendations by I.W. Gregorio

On the eve of New York Comic Con, YA Misfits is excited to have a guest post from author I.W. Gregorio, who will on the Geeks of Color Go Pro and #WeNeedDiverse(Comic)Books panels tomorrow at #NYCC. Make sure to check out The Book Smugglers Thursday to see the cover reveal for her debut YA novel, None of the Above

I grew up loving the X-Men for a ton of reasons - the angst! The humor! The human pathos! But looking back, I think I was especially drawn to the X-universe because it did such a good job of reflecting the diversity of our world: They had a disabled headmaster, a black female leader, a host of LGBT characters, and one of the first female Asian-American characters who wasn’t a cliche.


It wasn’t until recently, as I started reading to my daughter, that I dove back into the world of graphic novels. I was amazed and impressed to find some real gems that push comics beyond the superhero sterotype. Below, some incredible graphic novels from stunning and diverse voices that deserve amplifying:

El Deafo by Cece Bell

I’ve got to thank the New York Times whose stellar review prompted me to read this fantastic autobiographical novel about growing up hearing impaired. I actually purchased it from my local indie a couple days before it came out… and my daughter and I finished it the day before it’s actual release date. The little one loved the book so much we read it between meals, in the car, and of course at bedtime. A winner in every possible way, showing that we all have a superhero inside us. Happy to have been an early adopter, as the book is a Junior Library Guild selection, a NYT bestseller, and finalist for the Kirkus Prize.

The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang

Gene Luen Yang is no stranger to acclaim, having won the Printz and been a National Book Award finalist for American Born Chinese and Boxers & Saints. But in some respects The Shadow Hero is my favorite Gene Yang book yet. It’s funny, it’s moving, it’s so incredibly fast paced that I read it in one sitting. And I love, love, love how it plays on comic tropes while simultaneously making fun of Asian mom stereotypes that ring oh-so-true to me. Check out Gene’s speech on diversity in comics from the National Book Festival (and a picture of him sporting his We Need Diverse Books button!). 

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

The first 100 pages of Persepolis taught me more about the thorny politics of the Middle East than years of reading the New York Times and Washington Post. In stark, sometimes chilling images, Satrapi tells of the Islamic Revolution through the eyes of a child. Persepolis was made into a movie, and has received numerous challenges, adding to the tally of diverse books that have been disproportionately banned.
 
Fun House by Alison Bechdel

In this book, newly certified genius Bechdel takes every preconception that I’ve ever had about graphic novels and blows it out of the water. It’s impressive, haunting, and deserves every accolade it’s gotten. I’m somewhat ashamed that I hadn’t read it until recently. In this slim but meticulously illustrated volume, Bechdel touches upon suicide, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and of course sexual identity. I would warn teachers and parents that it has a NC-17 rating due to content, but think that it should be required reading for any college-level graphic novel course.   

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I. W. Gregorio is a practicing surgeon by day, masked avenging YA writer by night. After getting her MD at Yale, she did her residency at Stanford, where she met the intersex patient who inspired None of the Above, her debut novel (pitched as Middlesex meets Mean Girls). A founding member of We Need Diverse Books™, she serves as its VP of Development. She is a recovering ice hockey player and lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children. Follow her on Twitter at @iwgregorio.

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