Category Archives: LGBTQIA Must-Read Graphic Novels

Read 174 of 2021: The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen

The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen

Title: The Magic Fish
Author: Trung Le Nguyen
Publisher: Random House Graphic
ISBN: 978-0593125298
Genre: Graphic Novels, LGBTQIA, Coming of Age, 
Pages: 256 
Source: Publisher 
Rating: 5/5 

I wish someone had written this book for me when I was growing up. When I was dealing with my sexuality and didn’t know any better. I wish I knew how to tell my parents and family I was gay using words that would break their hard exterior and touch their heart and soul, which of course didn’t happen. I just came out and that was that. The Magic Fish however is a book that seems to know what to say and how and is more beautiful for it.

Tiến loves his family and friends. His parents hail from Vietnam and he is keeping a secret from them – about himself, about who he is, about how he cannot tell them that he is gay because there is no equivalent for it in Vietnamese. It is also about his love for a friend, and him struggling with his identity.

At the same time, Nguyen takes us on a whirlwind of providing comfort to yourself through fairy tales. Tiến and his mother read fairy tales to each other, every night, and in those tales, each of them is trying to find and know more about their lives – the past, present, and perhaps the future.

I love how Nguyen takes the concept of a fairy tale and throws it on its head and gives his readers something so refreshing to introspect about. The Magic Fish is a book that refreshingly looks at fairy tales keeping modern lives in mind. It doesn’t shy away from breaking norms and stereotypes, which is the need of the hour and the times we live in. Trung’s art is stunning and you need to spend some time on every page to soak it all in. In short, The Magic Fish is a read meant for all, to make people understand that people lead different lives and it is all about perspective and empathy.

 

Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill

Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O'Neill

Title: Princess Princess Ever After Author: Katie O’Neill
Publisher: Oni Press 
ISBN: 978-1620103401
Genre: Graphic Novel, LGBTQIA, Fantasy Comics 
Pages: 56 
Source: Publisher 
Rating: 5/5 

This month started off with a great, short read, a one that warmed my heart big time (well, to put it that way). Princess Princess Ever After is a graphic fairy tale of two princesses saving each other, of them not needing any prince, of a prince who also needs saving, of empathy, and most of all to just be who you were always meant to.

Princess Princess Ever After is a very short graphic novel of love that transcends gender, and above all about what it feels like to come to your own. Amira isn’t here for heteronormativity and she’s learning how to be a hero. She is on the move to save people, riding her pink unicorn. Along the way she meets Sadie, a princess who needs to be saved from the abuse of her sister, and together they will find their way, along with an unlikely prince.

This in short is what this webcomic (now a book) is about. Princess Princess Ever After breaks all boundaries of storytelling, making us see other ways of being, living, and loving. Katie O’Neill breaks patriarchy one page after another. They do it with humour, fun, and lots of heart. Read this book this Pride. Read it anytime actually.

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki

Title: Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me 
Author: Mariko Tamaki 
Illustrated by Rosemary Valero O-‘Connell 
Publisher: First Second 
ISBN: 978-1626722590
Genre: Graphic Novels, LGBT
Pages: 304 
Source: Publisher 
Rating: 5/5 

Just as the title goes, the book is about Laura Dean, the popular girl at school who keeps breaking up with her girlfriend, Freddy Riley. Well, in a nutshell, this is what the book is about, but there is so much more to it. This graphic novel goes to the heart of teenage dating, sexual orientation, and how does one cope with all of it and more growing up.

This is about a toxic relationship and what it takes to get out of it, or to even understand oneself better while in it or not. Mariko Tamaki does an amazing job of depicting the on and off, and off and on cycle – so amazing that it hits home too hard. At one point, the reader can see themselves in the book, because of course relationships are the same – well almost, and so is the toxicity sometimes that comes with it. At the same time, though the protagonists are teenagers, this book will resonate with readers of any age. We have all been down that road, after all, in one way or the other.

Rosemary Valero O-‘Connell’s illustrations in pink and grey are gentle, grounded in angst and romance. The LGBT cast so to say in the book is diverse, and the plot makes you turn the page faster.  The narrative is sometimes quirky but it all fits in beautifully at the end.

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me is about realising your worth in relationships – be it any kind and told with great sensitivity. I wish this book was written when I was younger – basically in my teenage years and needed to know so much more about loving oneself and how sometimes the one you love the most will keep breaking your heart, over and over again. Till you put a stop to it.

The Times I Knew I Was Gay by Eleanor Crewes

The Times I Knew I Was Gay Title: The Times I Knew I Was Gay
Author: Eleanor Crewes
Publisher: Virago Books, Hachette UK
ISBN: 9780349013213
Genre: Graphic Memoir, LGBT Literature
Pages: 308
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I wish this book was out when I was coming out to my family and friends. I wish this book was out also when I was coming out to my colleagues at my first workplace, and then constantly as I moved jobs. Sometimes I think that for me, my life is a constant coming out process. Coming out so many times that I have probably lost count. Till I wrote a book about it and that was that. But that’s a different story.

The Times I Knew I Was Gay is a graphic memoir by Eleanor Crewes and how she came out to her friends, her brother, and finally to herself about being gay. This book hits you hard in the sense that if you’re on the spectrum, you can so understand how difficult it is to know and yet deny who you are. To know it deep down and keep putting that thought at the back of your head, or at best living two lives – one straight, and the other when you are all alone, when you finally acknowledge being gay out loud, to yourself.

The Times I Knew I Was Gay also makes you see how liberating coming out of the closet can be, and at the same time it also very subtly hints at how it is no one else’s business but yours if you’d like to come out or not. I will never understand why people speculate about someone’s orientation/identity. It will always baffle me why do some people want other people to come out the closet. What’s in it for them? How does it impact their lives?

This graphic memoir on so many levels felt so personal. It made me see my confusion when I came out at 18. It made me see how I was in denial for the longest time, and how I wanted to be someone else, and fit in, even if it meant being straight. The Times I Knew I Was Gay is a warm, personal, charming, and honest account of awkwardness, self-denial, fear of not belonging, and what it takes to come to your own being.

Dragman by Steven Appleby

Dragman by Steven ApplebyTitle: Dragman
Author: Steven Appleby
Publisher: Jonathan Cape, Penguin Random House UK
ISBN: 9781787330177
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 336
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

Let me just say this at the very onset: We need more books like Dragman. We need more representation of cross-dressing and for it to not be an anomaly. We need for children and teenagers to know that it is okay to want to dress a certain way and not go by what the world has prescribed for them. I wish I had a book like Dragman in my life when I was growing up.

I think it started when I was eleven or so. The desire to wear women’s clothes, but I wouldn’t dare tell anyone. Heck, I wouldn’t even try on anything. It was just a desire. I wanted to be Hawa Hawaii. I wanted to be Seema from Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja. As I grew up, I wanted to be Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I so wanted to be all of them. To dress and shine. To be someone else and feel empowered with the hair, the make-up, the clothes, the high-heels, and the confidence that I never had till I was way into my late 20s.

Dragman1

Dragman is about all of this and more. It is not just about a man who feels powerful when he wears women’s clothes. It is also about him not identifying as drag but as trans. It is so much more. It is also about what it means to be a superhero in times such as ours or at any time for that matter.

Dragman2

Within the first one-hundred and twenty-five pages you are transported to another world, with so many layers, it almost stuns the reader into awe and admiration for what’s going on in these pages. But let me not drift.

It does however take some time to get into the book, but once you do, you are hooked. August Crimp can fight crime when he is wearing women’s clothes, with his side-kick Dog Girl. This happened till he got married and had a kid. And now in the world an inventor has developed a device that can remove people’s souls and store them on small disks. People without souls continue living. However, they have no character or personality or perhaps even the will to live. In addition to this, trans women are being targeted by a serial killer.

Dragman3

Colour panels take over the current life, while the past is depicted in black and white. There are also sections of prose that describe violent encounters without any graphics, which helps propel the narrative. In all of this, I found Dragman to be so relevant, of course given the times we live in, and owing to the discrimination toward trans people and how they fight the battle head on. Dragman is a book that is most needed and I know that there will be more books such as this one. The balance of being a superhero and the dilemma of sorts, finally leading to acceptance of being trans is wonderfully depicted and illustrated.

More Trans comics and graphic novels: 

https://markham.bibliocommons.com/list/share/328250817/539938080