Genre-Bending Graphic Novels & Their Importance

Growing up, everyone has their childhood memories of books. Whether that be forced to read to reach a certain amount of AR points or they were one of those kids who had finished the entire Harry Potter series by the fifth grade, books play an integral part in everyone’s childhood. There’s a reason elementary school teachers pay thousands of dollars to have their own classroom library and why there’s an entire section in the public library dedicated to children’s books. Personally, growing up I only liked reading if I enjoyed the material and while this may not be the best to admit, I enjoy the drama of it all. The more complex, messy, and problematic a character is, the more relatable they are. This is when Raina Telgemeier comes in.

I was neutral about reading, when I found a book I liked then I enjoyed it, but for the most part I saw it as a chore. That’s when I saw Raina Telgemeier’s novels. Smile. Sisters. Drama. Ghosts. The one-word titles and bright solid colored covers caught my eye. I opened up the pages of Sisters to discover that it was full of pictures. Surprised, I picked it up and started reading it, it felt like two seconds based on how much I was enjoying it. The characters felt real as I was seeing them in action and going through the events of the novel. This was when I realized I needed to read all of Telgemeier’s novels.

Scott McCloud explains, “…people have had this idea that comics were just four color, cheaply printed, cheaply made – comics about almost all superheroes, or funny animals – that they were disposable entertainment, that neither the writing nor the art was anything that was going to last or be significant.” This quote shows what people perceive comics and graphic novels and the rest of the podcast shows how this is now changing. I believe that comics and graphic novels representing genres other than action, adventure, and superheroes are important because it shows the variety of stories the graphic novel format can fit. I grew up being introduced to graphic novels with topics I was interested in discovering rather than the traditional form. These novels were coming-of-age and I feel that it was important for me to have grown up to visually see the characters go through the novel.

An award-winning, astounding, and something that we as a class have gotten familiar with an example of is They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott. I feel that this graphic novel is a great example of not following the traditional genre that graphic novels typically are. A graphic novel is a unique way to show the experience of going through a Japanese internment camp as you could visually see what the characters were going through and their emotions. This opened up a discussion for an extremely important topic in history and prevents it from being repeated by showing the effects it had on people at the time.

In conclusion, introducing genre-bending graphic novels to children at a young age and continuing to expose them to them as they grow up is important. It is necessary to break the precedent barriers that the type of book has and the box that it has been put in by people.

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