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I love reading queer women’s comics. Bi and lesbian books are my bread and butter anyway, but it’s especially nice to have these stories accompanied by beautiful illustrations. I’m going to devour a whole pile of lesbian and yuri manga at once, and there’s no better way to spend an afternoon than flipping through an F / F comic or bisexual graphic novel. It doesn’t need to be relegated to the world of fiction, however: there are plenty of Sapphic graphic memoirs worth your time that explore aspects of experiencing bi women or lesbians.
I can already hear your comments: You missed Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home! I love this book and definitely recommend it, but I doubt anyone clicking this post will need the recommendation. I’d rather use this space to draw attention to lesser-known authors. In case you weren’t aware of this, Bechdel released a new graphic treatise in May. So keep the secret of superhuman strength on your radar! While waiting for your pre-order, check out one of these other bi- and lesbian graphic memories!
My lesbian experience with loneliness from Nagata Kabi
This title had a huge impact both in Japan and after its translation into English. Nagata describes her experience as a lesbian in Japan dealing with mental illness, including her overwhelming loneliness. She is open and honest with herself and describes her awkwardness and uncomfortable thoughts to the point where it is sometimes difficult not to flinch, but it is also impossible to look away.
The fire never goes out: a memory in pictures by Noelle Stevenson
If you are still recovering from She-Ra like me, you will want to take up the heartbreaking memories of the Creator. If you’re familiar with Stevenson’s work online, you’ve probably seen some of these comics by now. Her comics feel very vulnerable, but sometimes they are also vague and don’t let the reader in all the way. Since this is a collection of scriptures and illustrations over time, there is no such thing as an easy narrative, but if you enjoy doing what you do it is worth choosing this collection to see how these pieces fit together.
Kimiko makes cancer: a graphic memory by Kimiko Tobimatsu and Keet Geniza
This is a short, sapphic graphic treatise of just 106 pages that discussed what it is like to be a strange colored woman undergoing breast cancer treatment. In her article on rethinking cancer, she explains, “I didn’t want to talk about how to regain my femininity despite breast scars and menopause. I wanted to find out how by losing my breasts I could lean into my manhood. I didn’t want to talk about how a change in femininity can affect a straight relationship. I wanted to talk about the effects breast cancer has on strange relationships between women. “She notices the gender dynamic, heterosexism, whiteness, and apolitical nature of these spaces devoted to cancer, and how alienated she felt. Check out my Lesbrary review for some of the panels!
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Spinning by Tillie Walden
This is a reminder of Walden’s more than 10 years as a competitive figure skater. As a child, this was where her whole world revolved. It used up all of her “free” hours. When she goes to middle school and makes new friends and engages in art, she discovers that she didn’t particularly like it either. This is a moody, thoughtful story about Walden falling in love with figure skating, as well as a bittersweet tale about how she got out and had her first relationship in middle school. Spinning won a Lambda Literary Award in 2018!
War of the Streets and Houses by Sophie Yanow
This sleek, 64-page graphic treatise has an academic slant – it even includes endnotes with sources! It covers Yanow’s time in Montreal during the spring 2012 student strike in Quebec. It’s partly about Yanow’s experience of finding a queer community there, but it focuses on urban planning and its links to military tactics: how wide, modernist spaces help police control crowds, while winding narrow streets protect resistance can. This is fascinating read on a subject I knew very little about, and I loved how the illustrations matched Yanow’s tone and emotional state (when Yanow first arrived in Quebec, Yanow is a tiny figure raised by a towering one City is dwarfed).
Honor Girl: A Graphic Reminder from Maggie Thrash
Thrash looks back on her stay at summer camp when she first developed feelings for a woman – one of the counselors. What follows is their confusion in trying to deal with what this means for their identity. Because this is a true story, it is permissible, the clutter that strange tales do not always have, and it is not neatly wrapped in an arch. It represents teenage girls as their faulty, complex selves, not stereotypes.
Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer’s Disease, My Mom, and Me by Sarah Leavitt
As the title suggests, this is an investigation into Leavitt’s relationship with her mother as she descends on Alzheimer’s. It’s not fun to read; in fact, it made our books that make us sob ugly group contribution. It starts with Leavitt’s mother forgetting little things and slowly deteriorating over time. This was done using the drawings and notes she made at the time. After her mother died, she spent four years using this material to create this powerful read on family, love, pain, and illness.
Call to Dr. Laura by Nicole J. Georges
Georges describes her experience of dealing with a family secret – by telling the conservative radio talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger asks for advice. She just found out that the story she was told all her life that her father died of colon cancer is a lie. She struggles to find the courage to ask her family the truth, and she hesitates over how that lie has affected her self-esteem. Her relationship with her mother is already strained, and when she tries to reconcile with this new information, she also avoids telling her mother her own truth by getting out.
I’m a Wild Seed: My Graphic Treatise on Weirdness and Decolonization of the World by Sharon Lee De La Cruz
This is a short (96 pages) graphic treatise on De La Cruz’s journey to the exploration of her sexuality and identity. Since this is short, it often reminded me of a lengthy essay rather than a graphic treatise, which is not a complaint! It’s packed with memes, charts, and other images that I’m more familiar with on the internet than in books. Including both history and personal experiences, she explains that it took her so long to get out, in part because she was busy trying to figure out her racial and cultural identity. This is quick, insightful read.
Everything is beautiful and I’m not afraid: A book from the Baopu collection by Yao Xiao
This comic originally appeared serialized on Autostraddle, although more panels have been added to this collection. It follows the author’s experiences as a queer Chinese immigrant to the US, balancing the many communities she belongs to while talking about gender and weirdness in general. She investigates the consequences of coming out bi for her disapproving mother. Since this has been serialized, there isn’t as much clear narration through the book, but these vignettes are powerful and memorable.
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