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Graphic Novels Aren't Just for Kids

by Danielle Ellis on 2020-09-22T10:52:58-07:00 in Diversity, Book List, Graphic Novels | Comments

I didn’t read any graphic novels until I was in my twenties, and I only did then because a coworker recommended one. I had just started a new job at a library where almost all the staff loved graphic novels, and while I had always assumed graphic novels were just like comic books or all for children, I read what they recommended because I wanted to understand what everyone was talking about. The series was called Lumberjanes and its true the primary audience was for young teens, but by no means was it only appealing to children. The characters were fun and adventurous and diverse in race and ability and gender identity, the artwork was precious, and I was hooked!

From Lumberjanes I found other children’s graphic novels like Amulet and Nimona, with heroes that went on grand adventures and villains that were funny and charismatic. I also found adult graphic novels like Saga and Fun Home, with complex characters, tragedy and romance, and plots targeted towards an adult audience that focused on colonization and sexism and homophobia. There were even nonfiction graphic novels like that of Palestine or Maus: A Survivor’s Tale. I found these to be much more approachable than a traditional nonfiction textbook or memoir, and probably learned about a lot of people and topics I wouldn’t have considered otherwise, from random history trivia to memoirs of victims of repeated human rights violations.

One of my favorite things about graphic novels is just how diverse they can be. They are varied in genre, from memoirs to sci-fi to romance, they are varied in age group with books for children, teens, and adults, but they also tend to be more varied and diverse in race, ability, and gender of the authors and characters than traditional print books, at least in my experience. Maybe it’s because there is a growing market for queer and POC leads in graphic novels, or maybe because the artwork instead of text makes people more inspired to create a diverse world, I’m not exactly sure what it is. But whatever the reason, it has been easier for me to find representation in even mainstream graphic novels than traditional books, especially in the last few years.

Second to how much I love the representation, the other reason graphic novels continue to captivate me is because of how easy they are to read. While some can be multiple hundreds of pages long, many are much shorter, and most graphic novels have only a few sentences of text per page. Chapters can be finished in a few minutes and whole books (or even multiple books in a series) can be read in an hour or so. This makes them quick, but it also means it’s incredibly easy to read in bite size chunks. When I read the March series by John Lewis, I would read a section while on hold with my bank, and another section in the waiting room at the pharmacy, and another on the bus, and so on in a way that allowed me to read even when I was busy or wouldn’t be able to get in a whole chapter of a traditional book. I am finding this is especially helpful for me right now, as the chaos that is 2020 has made it impossible for me to have a long attention span. When it’s a struggle to focus, it can be hard to sit down and dedicate time to read. Returning to graphic novels has helped me continue reading the genres I enjoy, with representation that’s important to me, in ways that don’t drain my energy further.

Graphic novels aren't just for kids, and it's never too late to try them! Whether you’re looking for representation, a way to learn something new, or just something quick and easy to read at a time when the world can be overwhelming, graphic novels are a great option! Consider trying out some of the great graphic novels the library has to offer, and get started with some suggestions here.

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