Books of all kinds in graphic format are becoming more and more popular. The Iowa City Public Library is following an example set by many others and creating a new home for comics and graphic novels. The new location on the second floor is better for reading and browsing with lots of seating nearby. It also is closer to the teen center and young adult section, which is nice since teens are heavy users of this collection. The works in this format are not all Japanese Manga and superheroes, though. Serious non-fiction graphic works will continue to be scattered among the nonfiction shelves.
Autobiographical works is one of the richest areas in this format. It’s interesting to explore the differences in the graphic style of each author while discovering their varied backgrounds. For example, Roz Chast’s scratchy, simplistic drawings help us to laugh at the little neuroses in our lives. Her latest book “Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?” explores her changing relationship to her aging parents. “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi is striking in its depiction of a turbulent period of Iranian history using a deceptively simple and flat black and white style.
“The Photographer” by Emmanuel Guibert and Didier Lefevre documents a photo journalist’s grueling trek through the mountains of Afghanistan with Doctors without Borders in the late 1980s. Each page combines Tintin-esque drawn panels with black and white photographs taken by this photographer and the juxtaposition is really interesting.
NPR’s Brooke Gladstone uses graphic nonfiction to examine how our relationship to the media has evolved over time. The book is illustrated by Josh Neufeld, who also created “AD: New Orleans after the deluge” which chronicles the lives of five different people from various walks of life during and after Hurricane Katrina. The intertwining timelines of each party show the vastly different experiences of people from those trapped at the Superdome to others whose life was unscathed.
Whether you are already a die-hard comic book fan or have never investigated graphic novels, you might give these non-fiction graphic works another look.
l Brent Palmer is IT coordinator at the Iowa City Public Library.