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8 Incredible Illustrated Books for LGBTQ Readers

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Oh, Luna Fortuna is more than queer author Stacy Bias’ weird little picture book for adults about trauma, mental health, and dog rescue in the vein of Go the Fuck to Sleep (i.e. not for kids). It’s a lovely little illustrated book that shows us how loving something else requires us often to love ourselves first. Bias, an author and well known fat activist, weaves together polyamory, animal rescue, and PTSD into a slim graphic memoir that will make many LGBTQ folks nodding vigorously with recognition (and sometimes delight).One of my favorite graphic books year. (Etsy/Oh Luna)— Diane Anderson-Minshall

A Fire Story by Brian Fies. In October 2017, fires roared through the Northern California towns of Santa Rosa and Calistoga, Calif., an area I once lived in and where the author and artist Flies lived at the time. He and his wife and neighbors evacuate their homes in the middle of the night. A few hours later nothing remained of their subdivision but piles of rubble, 44 people were dead, and over 8,000 buildings were destroyed. The fire had burned hot enough (2,600 degrees Fahrenheit) to melt steel. Fies immediately began to chronicle the fire and its aftermath — first as a webcomic and later as this moving and surprisingly informative, nonfiction graphic novel. If only we could learn about every tragedy this way, instead of with screaming TV reporters and politicians arguing about whose fault it was. (Abrams ComicArts) — JAM

5 Worlds: The Red Maze by Mark Siegel and Alexis Siegel, illustrated by Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun. I’m new to The Five Worlds series about five planets that can only be saved if five mysterious beacons are lit, but I found a lot to love in this graphic novel for middle-school-aged kids. Although there aren’t explicitly LGBTQ characters, the sumptuous, earthy illustrations depict main characters in ways that could be read as gender-ambiguous (I didn’t realize An Tzu was a boy at first), gender fluid (a shape-shifter), or otherwise queer (Jax Amboy). Oona Lee and An Tzu must evade capture while attempting to light Moon Yatta’s beacon, as their friend Jax risks everything by confronting the owner of his former starball team. Can Jax reignite the humanity of this ruthless businessman who will let nothing get in the way of his beloved game — or his attempts to get Jax back on the field? All the while a cabal of corrupt civic leaders are willing to undermine democracy and risk the fate of their world — for more power and wealth. Hmm, could this be an allegory for our times?  (Random House Graphic) — Jacob Anderson-Minshall

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Apocalypse Taco by Nathan Hale is a fun sci-fi action involving attacking tacos, 3-D printing, bioengineering, a boy in a kilt, a hard-working Brigadoon set-building mom, female graduate students, and the worst roommate ever. Hale, whose Hazardous Tales series has kids clamoring to read history (gasp), never disappoints even if you’re an adult or a “reluctant reader.” Grayscale images. (Amulet Books/Abrams) — JAM

Archival Quality by Ivy Noelle Weir and illustrated by Steenz is a ghost story, mystery, and an exploration of mental illness — and how it has been treated in this country — rolled into one. Celeste, suffering from depression, takes an archivist job at a museum and immediately begins to hear and see strange things at night. It feels like a ghost is trying to tell her something about what went on at the museum back when it was a psychiatric hospital. Celeste works with a lesbian of color who helps her uncover the truth. (Oni Press) — JAM

How to Die Alone: The Foolproof Guide to Not Helping Yourself by Mo Welch offers hilarious advice for isolating yourself (like how to hide to avoid people you know) and ensuring that when you die no one will even notice (or care) that you are gone. Things introverts think of at all ages. (The panels revolve around Blair, the character who starred in Welch’s 10-part animated series, Blair, on TBS Digital.) (Workman Publishing) — JAM

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Passing for Human is a graphic memoir by New Yorker cartoonist Liana Finck that revolves around her parents — particularly her mother who saw her creativity squashed by an abusive first husband and a patriarchal society — and Finck’s own search for identity as a female artist. Passing’s scribbly black and white drawings are deceptively simple. The memoir is also a fabulous ode to the creative process, particularly as experienced by artists who are haunted by doubt. There are four Chapter Ones: as depicted in the memoir, Finck’s rat-like “gnawing fears” keep telling her to throw everything out and start again. In the end, Finck keeps the false starts, each providing another perspective on her origination story and the heritage of her otherness. (Random House) — JAM

The Ultimate Cartoon Book of Book Cartoons edited by Bob Eckstein delivers on the title’s promise by collecting cartoons about books, bookstores, reading, and writing that academics and literature lovers with adore. The deliciously witty single-panel cartoons are the work of 33 artists, most of them well known to readers of The New Yorker, where many of these cartoons were originally published. (Princeton Architectural Press) — JAM

Delilah Dirk and the Pillars of Hercules by Tony Cliff is the latest in a series starring a Victorian-era, globe-trotting, adventure-seeking, swashbuckling feminist Delilah and her Arab companion, Selim. The beautiful art complements the exciting tale following the duo as they go in search of a lost city. Not explicitly queer, but this female Indiana Jones is worthy some attention. (First Second Books) — JAM 

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Big Mushy Happy Lump (2017) and Herding Cats (2018) by Sarah Andersen are collections from the webcomic Sarah’s Scribbles. Neither Sarah nor her comic big-eyed, boxy-bodied protagonists are specifically LGBTQ-identified, but they are f*cking funny. Anyone who has been overwhelmed by cat photos on Instagram (but later fell in love with a cat and uploaded hundreds of photos themselves), dealt with anxiety and overthinking, faced down Internet trolls, or put off today what tomorrow’s you will have to suffer the consequences of, will get a kick out of Andersen’s hilarious perspective. Unlike most comic strip collections Andersen’s include text that provides more context and insights, including advice to young creatives. (Sarah's Scribbles)— JAM 

 

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