Colorful comic books and graphic novels - not just for kids
Despite occupying more and more shelf space in our buildings, graphic novels and comics are still often treated as a “lesser than” format. Many people think of them as a visual medium aimed primarily at kids who would rather look at pictures than build their reading skills, but the fact is that graphic novels and comics trigger different parts of the brain and enhance multi-modal learning.
Librarians at the Forest Grove City Library are always happy to shine a light on this rich and diverse collection of stories and characters to connect readers with books that will open new doors to a whole new world of ideas!
BIPOC WRITERS AND ARTISTS
Shining a light on new characters
This book list includes a representative selection of adult and teen graphic novels by BIPOC writers and/or artists who use their talents to tell stories that have long been silent and to lift up characters whose voices have largely been absent from the genre.
WHAT STAFF ARE READING
A new thriller
Meet Bob Abbey, adult services librarian at Forest Grove City Library. He offers research assistance, readers' advisory, and tech support. Besides managing the fiction and AV collections, he also coordinates in-person and virtual programs for adults.
I received an advance reading copy back in March and it looked interesting. After I saw the book described as a literary mashup between Get Out and The Devil Wears Prada, I knew I had to read it!
How do you like it so far?
I’m about halfway through and I LOVE it. I immediately started casting the eventual series in my mind – and then saw that Hulu had optioned the book. They had better consult me before they get too far in that process …
Who is your favorite character from a comic book or graphic novel?
I’m a huge fan of Miles Morales, and I love the way his character both builds on and diverges from the standard Spider-Man tropes. For instance, Miles also has an influential uncle, but their relationship is very different from the one between Peter Parker and Ben. I also like how connected Miles is to his neighborhood and the people who live there.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
I’d really like to be able to take back anything I say that doesn’t land properly (or that I want to try out first before I commit). Kind of like a verbal Control + Z.
Bob's top 3 picks for the novice
If you’re new to the genre, consider this very personal list of recommendations from librarian Bob Abbey. Here are titles he always recommends to first-time graphic novel readers.
Don’t be put off by the size of Blankets – almost 600 pages – or (literal and figurative) weight of Craig Thompson’s autobiographical story of family life and young love set against the backdrop of his rigidly fundamentalist Christian upbringing in rural Wisconsin. This touching and passionate coming-of-age tale features Thompson’s evocative and free-flowing black-and-white artwork and a narrative that shifts between the author’s childhood and his young adolescence. Blankets is one of those graphic novels that I reconnect with every few years as a reminder of what this format is capable of accomplishing.
Another autobiographical graphic novel on my list is Fun Home, Alison Bechdel’s 2006 memoir of growing up in Pennsylvania. The title refers to the author’s father, who worked as both an English teacher and the town’s funeral director, and whose hidden past forms the basis for her relationship with him and with the rest of her family. Comics serve as the ideal medium for conveying Bechdel’s story, particularly through artwork that captures a constant sense of deadpan sameness in the main characters.
Frank Miller’s first entry in the Sin City franchise – The Hard Goodbye – caused quite a stir in the comics world when it was released in the early ‘90s, and thumbing through that volume 30 years later, it’s easy to see why. The noir-inspired artwork, with stark contrasts between black and white and extensive use of shadows and silhouettes, gritty crime world characters, and pulp detective tone represented a clear and decisive break from what had come before. Miller eventually went on to produce six more volumes in the series, not all of which live up to the promise of The Hard Goodbye, but if you’re interested in exploring more of this universe, I’d suggest checking out Volumes 2 (A Dame to Kill For) and 4 (That Yellow Bastard). Weird, wild and a lot of fun!
An Adult Summer Reading tradition
We started a tradition in 2019 of picking one local writer and encouraging community members to explore their works. In addition, we invite that author to take part in a program marking the end of summer reading, during which they read selections, share insights on their creative process and take questions from the audience.
Our very first author was Portland’s own Willy Vlautin, who charmed readers with stories and songs he composed based on his characters. Last year, award-winning and The New York Times best-selling novelist (and Forest Grove favorite) Jane Kirkpatrick joined us from Central Oregon for a streaming event that reached viewers from as far away as Michigan. This year we’ve invited Portland-based writer and teacher Peter Rock, author of nine novels, including 2009’s My Abandonment, to be our guest for a free virtual program broadcasting live on the library’s YouTube channel starting at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, August 24.
One of Forest Grove's most popular prizes are the coffee cards from Telvet that we award each week to one lucky reader who sends in an online book review. And as in years past, everyone who submits a review is eligible for the grand prize drawing in late August for $75 gift cards at popular local dining establishments.