More Graphic Novels…

This week, a bit of an addendum, because of course as soon as I wrote my post on graphic novels I remembered ones I’d loved and forgotten. And because it’s February and I don’t know about you, but I’m sleepy all the time and find the world a bit grey and can’t quite muster myself, I’m going to add to the list. It’s a great time to read a really great graphic novel. And this week, two out of three are Canadian. And two out of three ain’t bad.

Here goes:

Shelterbelts by Jonathan Dyck

I read this book when I was on the jury for the Manitoba Book Award, which it won. Effortlessly. We all agreed no contest. I’ve been on a few juries and this was the only one where the winner was completely obvious. This tells the story of a tight-knit Mennonite community grappling with issues around inclusion, the dwindling of rural life, and how to think about land, especially how to define oneself as a religious person whose relationship to land, while profound, must also acknowledge that violence and displacement is part of knowing where you and what has been done by you or your people or in your name, in this case, to Metis communities in Manitoba. This book takes a bewildering array of positions, and shows people in their complexity, their goodwill, their bigotry, and the ways these things are mingled in all of us. There are no heroes and villains.

Dancing After TEN by Vivian Chong and Georgia Webber

This remarkable graphic memoir is a collaboration between Chong and Webber, chronicling Chong’s journey after an extremely rare reaction to over-the-counter pain medication (TEN syndrome) left Chong blind. Undaunted, she teams up with Webber, an artist with her own lived experience of disability, and together they tell a story about what happens when life veers in a different direction. A profoundly open and honest consideration of disability, art, love, friendship, and what a good life actually means.

Dykes to Watch Out For (series) by Alison Bechdel

I’ve already mentioned this one. Bechdel is famous now, if only for the Bechdel test (look it up) but she’s been doing this a long time. It’s officially a comic strip, but only in the sense that Doonesbury is a comic strip; it’s really a long ongoing consideration of (queer) life, with a novel’s reach. You can follow the characters, both a core cast of favourites and rotating supporting parts as they navigate themselves in a mid-sized Midwestern city. Slipped in are debates about radicalism, separatism, sex, gender, class, race, history, voting patterns, and, when you finally get legal recognition, what that means, including the possibility that something gets lost in the name of progress. And it’s funny, too.