Adding LGBTQIA+ Comics to Your Classroom or Library

June 29, 2018
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As June comes to a close, we’ve compiled a list of comics that have LGBTQIA+ content and creators for which we have developed resources for educators and librarians. Many of these books are frequently banned or challenged. To get signed copies of some of these works, and so many more comics about LGBTQIA+ characters and from LGBTQIA+ creators, and to support the important work CBLDF does, check out our Reward Zone.

Books featuring LGBTQIA+ characters are among the most frequently challenged. For example, Raina Telgemeier’s eternally popular middle-grade title Drama still tops the list of most frequently banned books. Almost every attack on Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home is focused on its depiction of homosexuality, including the recent complaints from parents at a New Jersey high school. And in a rare higher education challenge in 2015, the second volume of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman was among several books attacked at a college in California. The book includes a transgender woman amongst the main characters.

Middle School*

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Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Raina Telgemeier’s Drama, a graphic novel about the joys and tribulations of a middle school drama troupe, received universal critical praise upon its publication in 2012. The book received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Media, Booklist, and School Library Journal. It also made “best of the year” or Editors’ Choice lists in Publishers Weekly, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Booklist, and School Library Journal. Finally, it was nominated for a Harvey Award and was a Stonewall Honor Book. Although most readers of all ages found Drama to be just as endearing and authentic as Telgemeier’s other books Smile and Sisters, a small but vocal minority have objected to the inclusion of two gay characters, one of whom shares a chaste on-stage kiss with another boy.

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Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Waters & Brooke Allen

Lumberjanes is an ongoing coming-of-age series about friendship and girl-power in the great outdoors. It is filled with humor and adventure as a lovably quirky diverse group of friends tackle wild, mystical mysteries using anagrams, astronomy, and Fibonacci series’ strategies, mixed in with brain power and pure brawn. Lumberjanes is a New York Times bestseller; won the 2015 Eisner Awards for Best Series and Best Publication for Teens (13-17); received 2015 Diamond Gem Awards for Best All-Ages Series and Best All-Ages Graphic Novel; was nominated for Harvey Awards for Best Letterer, for Best New Series, and for Best Original Graphic Publication for Younger Readers; and is a nominee for GLAAD’s Outstanding Comic Book for 2016.

stuckinthemiddle

Stuck in the Middle edited by Ariel Schrag

Stuck in the Middle is an anthology of comics by critically acclaimed cartoonists who take a bitingly honest look back at their “awkward” middle-school years, reflecting upon them with sensitivity and some humor. The themes covered in this collection are about the awkwardness of coming-of-age, budding issues of sexuality, bullying, friendship (rife with loyalty and betrayal), loneliness, balancing one’s burgeoning sense of identity with the need of fitting in, and finding the courage to pursue passions when they may not make you popular. The book doesn’t pander to its audience and is frank in its depiction of middle school, which has resulted in school library challenges.

This One Summer

This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki & Mariko Tamaki

Told in warm prose and exquisite monochromatic blue images, This One Summer delicately balances the nostalgic power of summer traditions with the often harsh and intruding lessons of life. It embraces readers of all ages as two tween girls, local townie teens, and one set of parents all tangle in the delicate balances of friendships and relationships, grapple with the pains of growing up, deal with the torments of depression and of wanted and unwanted pregnancies, and cope with the heartbreaks and hopes of life. This One Summer has received outstanding praise and unprecedented honors for its stunning art and thoughtful, sensitive content.

High School

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Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic is a graphic novel memoir of the author’s childhood, particularly focused on her relationship with her closeted gay father Bruce. As Alison grows older and realizes that she is a lesbian, she and Bruce are both forced to confront how his repression may have affected her own self-image and the way that she dealt with her sexuality. Loaded with literary references and appropriately gothic-tinged (“fun home” is the Bechdel children’s abbreviation for funeral home), the book was included on numerous “best of the year” lists, including Publishers Weekly, Time, Amazon.com, and The New York Times. It was also a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award (memoir/autobiography category) and won an Eisner Award (best reality-based work), the Stonewall Book Award (non-fiction), the GLAAD Media Award (outstanding comic book), and the Lambda Literary Award (lesbian memoir and biography).

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The Diary of a Teenage Girl by Phoebe Gloeckner

Artist and comics creator Phoebe Gloeckner has never been afraid to show the raw and gritty bits of reality in her work — something that possibly stems from her unique background in medical illustration. For that reason, Gloekner’s work is a frequent target of censors. The Diary of a Teenage Girl combines prose and illustration to continue the story of some of the characters from her previous book A Child’s Life. While Gloeckner is reticent to describe just how closely the books correlate to her own life, many consider them semi-autobiographical.

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The Sandman by Neil Gaiman & various artists

The Sandman is a 75 issue series launched in 1989 that chronicles the misadventures, struggles and complex relationships among seven mystical siblings. The series earned nine Eisner awards, three Harvey awards, and was the first graphic novel to win a literary award, the 1991 World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story. Since its release as a comic book, the series has experienced ongoing popularity in the graphic novel format, including the oversized and recolored Absolute edition.

stuck rubber baby

Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse

Cruse’s groundbreaking graphic novel tells the coming of age story of a young man who grows up queer in the South during the 1960s.  The book explores issues of homophobia, racism and gay identity in a time period where all of those concerns were undergoing profound and revolutionary changes.

Y The Last Man

Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra

Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s post-apocalyptic series Y: The Last Man follows the story of amateur escape artist Yorick Brown and his pet monkey Ampersand, the last males on earth after a mysterious plague wipes out the males of every species, including humans. During ensuing chaos, Yorick must defend himself against terrorist factions, military groups, and the new politics of a world of women who want to capture him.

Mature

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Saga by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

This sci-fi epic adventure has literally taken the comic and mainstream publishing industry by storm. The multiple award-winning series has been lauded as a modern classic and with its tackling of subjects like racial diversity and segregation in an alien universe has been embraced by the academic community for the value it adds to comic library collections. Despite its critical acclaim, the book has been challenged by would-be censors for its alleged “anti-family” and “age-inappropriate” content.

*Please note: Books are organized by approximate grade category based on publisher and creator recommendations as much as possible. A book that is listed as appropriate for one group is often appropriate for others, so please do your own research on the title to determine suitability for your students or patrons.

As you’re developing your library catalog and classroom curricula, be sure to check out these other valuable CBLDF resources:

CBLDF’s education program is made possible with the support of the Gaiman Foundation and CBLDF’s Corporate Members — ABRAMS, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, BOOM! Studios, comiXology, DCBS, Diamond Comic Distributors, Dark Horse Comics, DC Entertainment, Fakku!, IDW Publishing, Image Comics, Lion Forge, Neverwear, Oni Press, Penguin Random House, Rebellion, ReedPop, Scholastic, SPX, Valiant, Viz Media, the Will & Ann Eisner Family Foundation — and members like you. Thank you!

Help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work by visiting the Rewards Zonemaking a donation, or becoming a member of CBLDF!

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