Comics break another barrier, as Mira Jacob’s Good Talk, a graphic memoir, earns a spot in Publisher’s Weekly Top Ten Books of 2019 List. “It’s a wonderfully enchanting memoir that couldn’t be more of-the-moment, with its take on race in America that’s equally smart, pointed, funny, and touching. (There is also some wisdom in there about how to deal with Trump-supporting in-laws.)” But Jacob’s addition to the graphic memoir category isn’t the only comic to make its way on to the list. Check out these other’s that PW thought were the best from this past year, and add them on to your own TBR pile.
PW’s Top 10 in 2019
Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations
by Mira Jacob, Publisher: One World
Disarming yet charming, witty but weighty, this debut graphic memoir by novelist Jacob (The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing) illustrates candid conversations with her inquisitive biracial son (who is obsessed with Michael Jackson) and other family and acquaintances on race, sex, death, and attempts to survive this political moment.
PW’s Best YA
Kiss Number 8
by Colleen AF Venable, illus. by Ellen T. Crenshaw; Publisher: First Second
In 2004, Amanda’s life is full of comfortable constants, but an overheard conversation and a mysterious letter set her on the path to uncovering a family secret just as she begins to explore her sexuality. Venable and Crenshaw create a remarkably full picture of Amanda’s life and the overlapping relationship dynamics. A queer coming-of-age story that earns its powerful emotional impact.
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me
by Mariko Tamaki, illus. by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell; Publisher: First Second
Laura Dean is a terrible girlfriend, but Freddy loves her and has no idea how to stop perpetuating her part of their cycle. A largely queer and physically and ethnically diverse cast inhabits this graphic novel vision of Berkeley, and its exploration of toxic relationships and social dynamics at the cusp of adulthood is, like its characters, sharp and dazzling.
PW’s Best Middle Grade
Queen of the Sea
by Dylan Meconis; Publisher Walker Books US
Set in a remote island convent, Meconis’s quietly ambitious graphic novel, an atmospheric alternate history, is inspired by the childhood and succession of Queen Elizabeth I. The island world is richly developed, both in its physical particulars and its close-knit community, and the heroine proves endearing, with a strong voice full of humor and wonder.
This Was Our Pact
by Ryan Andrews; Publisher: First Second
Creepy yet benign, this leisurely graphic novel opens on the autumn equinox, when a community sends paper lanterns down a river. A group of boys makes a pact to follow them, but the vow proves daunting, and soon only two remain on the trail. Picaresque episodes and a dreamlike resolution conjure a giddy sensation, like staying up all night.
by Jerry Craft; Publisher: HarperCollins
Riverdale Academy Day School has a beautiful sprawling campus, a rigorous academic curriculum, and ample extracurricular activities. It’s also distinctly lacking in diversity, and though African-American new kid Jordan Banks would rather go to art school, he dutifully attends, navigating myriad microaggressions. Craft’s artwork interweaves the story with Jordan’s sketchbook drawings, which convey tensions of being a person of color in traditionally white surroundings.
PW’s Best Comics of 2019
Rusty Brown, Part I
by Chris Ware; Publisher: Pantheon
Charting the lives of Nebraskan outcast Rusty Brown and his family, friends, and enemies, Ware (Building Stories) brings his telescoping lens to the large and small details of his characters’ intersecting, brutally human experiences. His dazzling geometric art amply rewards the challenge posed by each puzzle-like page.
by Seth; Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Drawn over 20 years, Seth’s exacting dual portrait of salesmen brothers—whose opposing personalities lead them to estrangement as their family business falls into decline—prompts big philosophical questions about the worth of individuals in capitalist society. It’s also a stunning nostalgic art object, exemplifying the cartoonist’s throwback style.
by Ebony Flowers; Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Flowers’s splendid debut collects stories united by an often heated subject: black women’s hair. Whether these tales are memorializing a first perm or family grudges at a funeral, Flowers captures how community and conflict alike form around hair-care routines and coming-of-age rituals, all lovingly rendered in fluid, curlicue comics.
They Called Us Enemy
by George Takei, et al; Publisher: Top Shelf
Takei (aka Star Trek’s Sulu) poignantly and pointedly recalls his childhood years when he was held prisoner, with his family, in WWII-era Japanese-American internment camps. Manga-influenced art by Harmony Becker vividly illuminates the ramifications of the U.S.’s policy of the period—while raising concern about history repeating itself.
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