Graphic Memoir

It is clear to anyone who has perused their local library’s graphic novel section that comics are more than stories about superheroes. The medium is diverse and the subject matter seemingly limitless, constrained only by the author’s imagination. This freedom allows for engrossing narratives in which metaphors come to life and the writing adage “show don’t tell” is taken to its literal conclusion. Though the term graphic novel would seem to describe fiction, comics are equally effective in telling true stories—the stories of authors’ lives. Here are four fantastic examples of graphic memoir that showcase the depth and diversity of the genre.


Epileptic is a chronicle of the author’s childhood in France and his family’s struggle with his older brother’s debilitating epilepsy. In its original French, Epileptic is titled L’Ascension du haut mal, which translates to “The Rise of the High Evil.” As this title suggests, epilepsy is characterized as something dark and sinister—an evil that cannot be escaped, despite David’s parents’ endless pursuit of a cure in both western and alternative medicine. His brother’s illness is illustrated as a monstrous creature, weaving its way in and out of the intricately drawn panels.


One Hundred Demons

Lynda Barry was inspired to write One Hundred Demons after learning about a painting exercise practiced by a 16th Century Zen monk who painted one hundred demons across a scroll. She decided to explore some of her own demons in seventeen short, vibrant comics exploring such topics as lice, femininity, and a legendary demonic dog. An interesting aspect of One Hundred Demons is that Barry opens by writing: “Is it autobiography if parts of it are not true?” She coins the term “autobificitionalography,” challenging the reader’s conception of where autobiography ends and fiction begins.


In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq.

Blankets: An Illustrated Novel

Blankets is, in many ways, the story of a first love—it depicts a teenage Thompson meeting a friend at church camp, corresponding with her, and then traveling to visit her for two weeks in her snow-covered Michigan hometown. This sweet and redemptive love story is interwoven with darker memories from Thompson’s childhood and adolescence, including years of bullying from his peers. Both in the snowy landscapes that dominate Blankets and the story Thompson tells, the reader is faced with visions of purity and the things that tarnish it.