Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer
Comics/Graphic Novels

New, Upcoming, and Undiscovered Graphic History and Memoir

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S.W. Sondheimer

Staff Writer

When not prying Legos and gaming dice out of her feet, S.W. Sondheimer is a registered nurse at the Department of Therapeutic Misadventures, a herder of genetic descendants, cosplayer, and a fiction and (someday) comics writer. She is a Yinzer by way of New England and Oregon and lives in the glorious 'Burgh with her husband, 2 smaller people, 2 cats, a fish, and a snail. She occasionally tries to grow plants, drinks double-caffeine coffee, and has a habit of rooting for the underdog. It is possible she has a book/comic book problem but has no intention of doing anything about either. Twitter: @SWSondheimer

San Diego ComicCon@Home was a pretty amazing event. Not the same as being there, but then, nothing is. You’d think tuning in from the couch would be easier than fighting the crowds and sweating through your cosplay, but it turns out when when you aren’t constrained by the physics and physiology of being limited to being present in one place at a time you can watch 21 panels over the course of four days. Should you? That is an entirely different question to which the answer is probably “no,” but I did it anyway because I would much rather think about books and comics than the real world and honestly, at this point, what even is the real world?

The good news is, I heard lost of news about upcoming comics and discovered some books that had been out for a while that are very much in my wheelhouse but had somehow escaped by clutches and, in turn, am bringing that information to all of you. Let’s start with graphic histories and memoirs, shall we?


Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Blades of Freedom by Nathan Hale

This series is extremely popular in my house. After the My Hero Academia manga, they are, in fact, probably the most read and reread volumes to grace our shelves (well, they’re supposed to grace the shelves but they usually grace the couch or the ottoman or the floor). The kids like them because the art is both fantastic and hilarious, and I like them because the history is really pretty excellent and both spawn seem to pick up a new fact each time they go story spelunking. During his Comic Con panel, Hale showed a preview of book 10 in the series, Blades of Freedom (Amulet, October 27th, 2020), set during the Haitian Revolution and the Louisiana Purchase.

The Black Panther Party: A Graphic Novel History by David F. Walker and Marcus Kwame Anderson

Walker and Anderson’s new book discusses not only the founding and political efforts of the Black Panther party but their social, educational, and healthcare campaigns intended to uplift the Black community as a whole. This volume focuses on the individuals who drove the movement, the events that defined it, and the legacy that endures today. (Ten Speed, January 26, 2021) Walker’s intent in choosing the graphic history format over straight prose (his first graphic history, The Life of Frederick Douglass, was created with Damon Smyth and released in 2019) is to provide a greater cross-section of the population, including a wider age range and a wider educational range, with access to history.

Almost American Girl: An Illustrated Memoir by Robin Ha

Robin Ha spent the first 14 years of her life in Korea living with her mother, and every summer the duo escaped on a big, wonderful trip. Then, during that 14th summer, they headed from Seoul to Huntsville, Alabama where Robin’s world was blown apart: her mother announced she was getting married and they would be staying in the States. Forever. Bereft of her friends, cut off from everything she’s known including her beloved comic books, completely out of place in her new family and her new school, furious with the mother who, until then, had been her dearest partner in crime, Robin doesn’t know how to cope with all the changes…until she has the chance to take a class about drawing comics. (HarperCollins)

I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir by Malaka Gharib

Named one of the best books of 2019 by NPR, Gharib’s memoir somehow slipped under my radar and I’m so glad to know about it now. The daughter of both Filipino and Egyptian immigrants, Gharib had to learn to negotiate not only American culture, but those of both of her parents as well, to hold on to both sets of traditions while on the search for her authentic self. Can she live up to the dreams her mother and father had for themselves and transplanted on to her? What if she wants something different, something other? What if she doesn’t know what she wants? What does it mean to be American when so much of you comes from other places but you were born here? Travel Gharib’s past with her as she finds the answers to these questions…and finds even more. (Clarkson Potter)

Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: A Graphic History of Women’s Fights for their Rights by Mikki Kendall and A. D’Amico

Our fight didn’t start with the fight to vote. As far back as there’s been gender, there’s been gender bias, and as long as we’ve been framed by men as “the weaker sex” we’ve been battling to prove them wrong. Kendall and D’Amico highlight some of the struggle’s leaders across history, from kickbutt queens to those who marched for Civil Rights and beyond in this graphic history for all ages—and all genders.

My bank account is already feeling a little swoon after the manga order I put in last night…guess I better get the fainting couch prepped…