David Small draws haunting images in this best-selling memoir about childhood illness. His artistry captures the trauma and pain of his experience with cancer. Drawings become a poignant medium to document how the disease took hold of his vocal cords. His artwork is anything but silent as it looks at his middle-class family life in Detroit. It’s a beautiful story about losing and finding your voice that’s hard to put down. You’ll find yourself transplanted into the riveting and emotional world Smalls has drawn for you. These are the signs of cancer that men are likely to ignore.
Cartoonist Chris Ware hit the scene with his acclaimed first graphic novel, Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth, first serialized in newspaper. His masterwork is the avant-garde Building Stories, filled with interwoven tales about family and relationships that hit on themes of loneliness, memory, and trauma. Building Stories is best known for its amazingly innovative presentation. The graphic novel comes in a game box filled with a bunch of different formats that you can read in any order. The box contains comic books, a “Golden Book,” newspapers and even a game board. The stories are riveting and moving, and the crazy format is fun, but also masterful, reportedly taking a decade to compile.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
“Fun Home” was the nickname young Alison and her siblings came up with for the funeral home their Dad ran. Bechdel’s graphic memoir captures all the humor and pathos within the macabre atmosphere she grew up in. Fun Home journeys through the story of her father who was hiding a desperate secret and died under mysterious circumstances. She also wrote the equally great companion book, Are You My Mother that explores her tense relationship with her mom. Bechdel’s two graphic novels work well together as a set that captures the relatable story of her childhood and its effects on her adult life. Her books are heartfelt and insightful even as they continually dive into the hard stuff. Both graphic memoirs are beautiful and moving, and Fun Home was recently adapted into a Broadway musical. If you love musicals here’s our list of the best movie musicals to watch.