One of the debates in the Graphic Medicine community is whether or not social justice titles actually count. Some folk include them because they embody issues around what is currently referred to as “social determinants of health” or because they are of interest to the specific community they serve, while others suggest that with limited budgets and space, we should really focus on comics that explicitly touch directly on health, healthcare, and medicine. There’s a range, and for me, I tend to throw out a broad and inclusive net. Graphic novels and graphic memoirs which touch on social justice themes often can be of great value in empathy building or can serve as touchstones for challenging conversations around issues of access, inclusion, equity, and related topics as they touch on healthcare.
Today, the #medlibs Twitter chat focused on social justice. More on that.
Yesterday was the ALA webinar, “Libraries, Comics, & Superheroes of Color.” More on that.
Do you get the impression these ideas have been on my radar recently?
A couple weeks ago, Jeff Edelstein and I were asked for suggestions of graphic novels and graphic medicine titles along themes of social justice and global scholarship. I promised to collect our suggestions in a blogpost, so we can find them more easily in the future. Here we go!
The list of titles is alphabetical. The links for the titles are not to places you can buy them, but to reviews of the books. I tried to select the reviews from a variety of quirky and interesting places where you might want to browse to find more information on graphic novels or comics or social justice. Some of the books are about recent history or current events, others are more distant history. Some of them may not strike you immediately as ‘social justice’ but they all carry social justice elements and themes. I tried to select some which are well known and others which are not as well known. The purpose of the entire list is to try to direct you from this selected list to a vastly broader world of similar books out there waiting to be discovered. Trust me, there’s a lot more where these came from, and more stories waiting to emerge and waiting to be told. There are more links to extra resources at the end of the post.
- American-Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang.
- The Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978-1984: A Graphic Memoir, by Riad Sattouf.
- Aya: Life in Yop City, by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie.
- The Best We Could Do, an Illustrated Memoir, by Thi Bui.
- Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu.
- Death Threat, by Vivek Shraya.
- Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, by Don Brown.
- Far Tune: Autumn, by Eisele Bowman.
- HIROSHIMA, The Autobiography of Barefoot Gen, by Keiji Nakazawa.
- Hostage, by Guy Delisle.
- Illegal, by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin, Giovanni Rigano.
- La Perdida, by Jessica Abel.
- Love is Love, by Marc Andreyko, Sarah Gaydos, Jamie S. Rich.
- March, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell.
- Maus, by Art Spiegelman.
- The Mental Load: A Feminist Comic by Emma.
- My Brother’s Husband and Volume 2 by Gengoroh Tagame.
- Pashima by Nidhi Chanani.
- Persepolis (And Persepolis 2; or the complete edition), by Marjane Satrapi.
- The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan With Doctors Without Borders, by Emmanuel Guibert, Didier Lefèvre and Frédéric Lemercier.
- The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights, by Steve Sheinkin
- Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas, by Jim Ottaviani.
- PTSD, by Guillaume Singelin.
- Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle.
- Queer: A Graphic History, by Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele.
- A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns by Archie Bongiovanni and Tristan Jimerson.
- A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities, by Mady G. and J.R. Zuckerberg.
- Radioactive, by Lauren Redniss.
- Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, by Sarah Glidden.
- Run For It: Stories Of Slaves Who Fought For Their Freedom, by Marcelo D’Salete.
- Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995, by Joe Sacco.
- Sally Heathcote: Suffragette, by Mary M. Talbot and Kate Charlesworth
- Second Avenue Caper: When Goodfellas, Divas, and Dealers Plotted Against the Plague, by Joyce Brabner and Mark Zingarelli.
- Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology, by Jeff Yang, Parry Shen, Keith Chow, Jerry Ma, Jef Castro.
- Spiral Cage, by Al Davison
- They Called Us Enemy, by George Takei.
- Threadbare: Clothes, Sex, and Trafficking, by Anne Elizabeth Moore.
- Unterzakhn, by Leela Corman.
- The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees, by Don Brown.
- Vietnamerica: A Family’s Journey, by GB Tran.
- Waltz With Bashir A Lebanon War Story, by Ari Folman and David Polonsky.
- Where We Live: A Benefit for the Survivors in Las Vegas, by J. H. Williams III and 150+ contributors.
- With Only Five Plums, by Terry Eisele.
- Your Black Friend and Other Strangers, by Ben Passmore.
- Zahra’s Paradise, by Amir and Khalil.
Resources from the University of Michigan
UMich: Library Guide: Comics and Graphic Novels about the Civil Rights Movement
From Other Libraries
Indiana University, Southeast: Library Guides: Diversity in Graphic Novels and Comics
Seattle Library: Social Justice Graphic Novels
Canadian Children’s Book Centre: Social Justice & Diversity Book Bank
National Council of Teachers of English. Diversity in Graphic Novels: Booklists.
Social Justice Books: Teaching for Change: Graphic Novels
Social Justice Book List, edited by Katherine Bassett, Brett Bigham, and Laurie Calvert. NNSTOY, 2017.
Teaching Tolerance: The Social Justice League (Toolkit).
Scholarly & Professional Publications on Social Justice in Comics
Bennett, Colette. A Comic Book Helped to Inspire the Civil Rights Movement. The Educator’s Room, August 7th, 2017.
Greenfield, David. Beyond Super Heroes and Talking Animals: Social Justice in Graphic Novels in Education. (Dissertation) Pepperdine University, December, 2017.
Hunter R. Comics As “Bibles” for Civil Rights Struggles. ACLU, 2014.
Irwin M, Moeller R. Seeing Different: Portrayals of Disability in Young Adult Graphic Novels. ALA School Library Research 13, 2010.
Moeller R, Becnel K. Drawing Diversity: Representations of Race in Graphic Novels for Young Adults. School Library Research Journal 21, February 2018.
Robbins M. Using Graphic Memoirs to Discuss Social Justice Issues in the Secondary Classroom ALAN v42n3
Wickner A. Teaching Social Justice With Comics. Education Week, September 5, 2013.
Popular Media & Blogs on Social Justice in Comics
Brave in the Attempt: SOCIAL JUSTICE LEARNING WITH THE X-MEN AND OTHER GRAPHIC NOVELS
The Conscious Kid: 15 Diverse Graphic Novels for Middle Grade or Teen Readers
Ouch Blog: With great power comes great disability
Planet Jinxatron: 7 Fantastic Graphic Novels About Politics, Race, and Activism
Tales from the Nerdy: Disabled or Mislabeled: Comics and Graphic Novels About Disabilities Bibliography