Bui, Thi. The Best We Could Do.

NY: Abrams, 2017.

This is one of most affecting graphic novels I’ve read in some time. It’s actually a memoir (the library classifies it in U.S. history), detailing the author/artist’s birth in Vietnam three months before the end of the American war there and her flight with her family as one of the Boat People in 1978.

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Thrash, Maggie. Honor Girl.

Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2015.

This “graphic memoir” is the author’s first book, but she pretty much hits it out of the park. It’s the 1990s (I think) and 15-year-old Maggie, an Atlanta native and daughter of a federal judge, is spending the summer at the same Kentucky camp where she’s gone every year since she was little (as did her mother and her grandmother). She has friends there but she’s not really one of the popular girls. But this summer is different. This is the summer she’s blindsided by falling in love with tall, blonde Erin, a 19-year-old counselor.

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Holm, Jennifer & Matthew Holm. Swing It, Sunny.

NY: Scholastic, 2017.

This is a sequel to this sister/brother team’s Sunny Side Up (2015), and it’s pretty good. It’s set in the closing months of 1976 and Sunny, now starting middle school, misses her older brother, Dale, who has been sent away to a military boarding school for his own (and everyone else’s) good. The story is episodic, going from the start of school to Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Year’s — all the landmarks in an adolescent’s calendar

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Brown, Chester. Paying for It.

Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2011.

Chester, who lives and works in Toronto, has been a working cartoonist for quite a long time and his books tend to serious subjects and transparent honesty. The subtitle here is “A Comic-Strip Memoir About Being a John,” and that’s exactly what it is. When he broke up with his third long-term girlfriend (though they kept living together), he decided enough was enough: No more traditional relationships. It wasn’t worth it.

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Le Carré, John. A Legacy of Spies.

NY: Viking, 2017.

Le Carré is still the best of the great Cold War spy novelists, though he had to change his game rather a lot after the Iron Curtain collapsed. Here, he returns to his roots with a story set mostly in the late 1950s and early ’60s. Many years ago, when he was young, Peter Guillam was the personal assistant, factotum, and gatekeeper to George Smiley, the dumpy, rather gray, middle-aged master spy of the Circus, and he was thereby privy to all the great (and usually secret) events of the long, strong struggle against the Soviet Union. Now Peter is becoming elderly himself, living in retirement on the farm in Brittany where he grew up.

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Eisner, Will. Life, in Pictures: Autobiographical Stories.

NY: Norton, 2007.

Eisner is very much the godfather of the modern graphic novel. There’s a reason the field’s most important award is named for him. This fat compilation volume brings together five previously published pieces, two of them quite long, which are drawn from his own life and ancestry — and if not entirely in a factual sense, then in tone and in general approach.

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Backderf, John. My Friend Dahmer.

NY: Abrams, 2012.

Jeffrey Dahmer wasn’t the only serial killer America produced in the late 20th century but he was one of the most disturbing ones, if only because, after he was caught in 1991, he was candid and forthright about what he had done. Unlike Gacy and others who come to mind, he didn’t make excuses or try to shift the blame. But he really didn’t know why he had killed sixteen men, either.

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Scheer, Kodi. Midair.

NY: Little A, 2016.

The author teaches writing at the University of Michigan, and this may or may not be her first published novel, but it’s not a bad effort. It’s also quite short — barely 200 pages — but she packs a lot into it. It’s the summer of 1999 and Vanessa Baxter is eighteen, a recent high school graduate from a semi-rural Chicago suburb, and she has just arrived in Paris with three of her classmates. Her single-parent family, unlikely those of her friends, has no money to speak of, but the girls managed to find sponsors for the trip and now they’re settling into a tiny short-term apartment on the Île de la Cité. Nessie is the brainy one, and also one of the class rejects.

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Telgemeier, Raina. Sisters.

NY: Scholastic Books, 2014.

I’ve really gotten into graphic novels the past decade or so, but I hardly ever do superheroes. I wasn’t really into Marvel comics even in the ’70s. I prefer “real” stories. This author does autobiography and the award-winning Smile was a terrific book, so I grabbed this one as soon as I saw it.

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Kakazawa, Keiji. Barefoot Gen: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima.

Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1987.

There are a handful of key books that combined cartoon-style art and text narrative to create the modern graphic novel. This is one of them. The author was a seven-year-old resident of Hiroshima when the bomb was dropped in August 1945

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