Ex-Book Snobbery: Unearthing the Heart of Graphic Memoirs

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When a young reader and intellectual arrogance meet, one gets a book snob. At one point in my not so long ago history as a reader I was a book snob. I sneered at the site of the word ‘bestseller’on a book and believed that popularity meant lowbrow reading. The moment my 17 year old self began reading either classics or literary fiction, I began to have a snarly relationship towards what I once considered low-forms of literature, namely: genre-based books, chic-lit, YA literature and whatnot. But this would soon evolve when met with various challenges from acquaintances to read books outside my pointless white tower of ‘intellectual’ reading. As my pride dictated I took the challenge and soon found myself re-calibrating my attitude towards books. I still believe that not all books are created equal, but I’ve also come to discover that no matter what the genre is, a good book is a good book.

There are still a bit of those leftover feelings from my book snob days such as not fast to take on book recommendations. Book recommendations scare me as for the most part the recommended books that come my way often leave a bad taste in my mouth. I am wary of direct recommendations. I prefer reading reviews or getting an objective review from a friend about a book they read. So when a close friend suggested I read a particular Graphic Memoir because ‘she thought of me’ while reading it, I was without a doubt bothered. Not only was the ‘she thought of me’ line a bit to vague and a runner-up for potential insult, I have never ventured into the graphic memoir genre before.

I read non-fiction, but I do not read memoirs, autobiographies, or biographies. I haven’t reached that point in my reading to truly enjoy such works of non-fiction. When the recommendation came, I nodded and let it pass. My friend on the other hand was insistent I read it. The weekly follow up on the progress of my procurement of said book started to become an irritation that I believed that could only be fixed by actual purchase and reading of said graphic memoir. Sometime in the middle of 2014 I found myself reading Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and its follow up Is that You Mother?

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Alison Bechdel shattered whatever unarticulated prejudice I had for graphic memoir. The book didn’t feel self-indulgent, if anything it was earnest in its own attempt to understand the author’s relationship with both her parents vis a vis her own self-discovery. I wasn’t ready for how different a novel is from a graphic memoir wherein the words don’t merely describe the picture, rather the words and the picture create the whole.

Visuals capture nuances that the words don’t. In reading a graphic memoir the sarcasm or irony of the author is even more striking when the words and images contrast each other. I was moved, moved both by the words and the vividness of the pictures. The connection the life story of some author far removed from my reality to my life was so deep that my first attempt at reading a graphic memoir has launched an active search for these gems.

The search has led me to the discovery that there were so much of the genre out there. I have but a small collection of Graphic Memoirs but in hope as I make these books a staple in my reading diet I would unearth more of them.

I still think that not all graphic memoirs are made equal, but I have been lucky to have enjoyed what I have read so far. I do know that more titles out there that capture not only personal histories but world events are out there waiting to be read by my ex-book snob eyes.

Do you read graphic memoirs? What titles would you recommend?

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3 Comments

  1. I haven’t read any graphic memoirs so far, I should make it a point to do so this year. And I have had Fun Home on my list for the longest time. Also there’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” by Roz Chast, which comes up ever so often on the best of 2014 lists. And The Hospital Suite by John Porcellino also looks interesting to me.

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  2. Hi TinTin,
    Graphic Memoirs are quite an amazing genre on its own. I didn’t think it could be so poignant as other books, but it is. I do hope to grow my collection but graphic memoir’s aren’t the cheapest in the world. sigh.I have seen Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? in a lot of people’s list last year and its one of the books I hope to get.
    Do read Fun Home, its a lovely book and Bechdel deserves all the acclaim she’s getting.

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