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Graphic Memoirs

By Mike Smoody

Fun Home, which I read on the recommendation of a friend, was my entry point into the world of graphic novels. Delighted by the book, I went on to read Bechdel's second graphic memoir, Are You My Mother? After that, I read Marbles and then Stitches. Along with the other titles in this list these books are united under a double theme: art and mental disorder.

  • Marbles : mania, depression, Michelangelo, & me

    2012 by Ellen Forney

    Forney challenges the notion that madness and creativity are linked as she seeks treatment for bipolar disorder while maintaining her artistic drive. I like how the artwork suits her mood or situation, e.g. the panels are square and uniform when she's talking to her psychiatrist, wild and inventive when she's experiencing a manic mood. Her honesty and originality make this a great read.

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  • Fun Home : a family tragicomic

    2006 by Alison Bechdel

    In an emotionally complex memoir Bechdel tells what it was like growing up under her tyrannical father. Her unusual family is fascinating to read about and Bechdel herself is completely endearing.

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  • Are You My Mother?

    2012 by Alison Bechdel

    Bechdel departs from the straightforward narrative style maintained in Fun Home and tells three separate stories in this followup: the story of writing Fun Home, her relationship with her mother and her psychotherapy sessions. The book is filled with interesting psychological insights, even if it lacks the narrative appeal of her previous work.

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  • Psychiatric Tales : eleven graphic stories about mental illness

    2011 by Darryl Cunningham

    Cunningham documents what it was like working in a psychiatric hospital by providing eleven vignettes, each about an individual with a different mental illness. It is an eye opening, dark and empathetic look at a world most people rarely see. What I found most rewarding about the book is that Cunnigham brings mental illness down to earth, showing that the mentally ill deserve as much sympathy as the sufferers of any serious illness.

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  • Stitches : a memoir--

    2009 by David Small

    Small's darkly illustrated memoir of childhood is perfectly adapted to his gloomy upbringing. His boyhood is marred by a number of things, not least of which is an unloving mother. Like the other memoirs in this list, a visit to a psychiatrist marks a turning point in the author's life. Small's illustrations and inventiveness are stunning and add some light to an otherwise gloomy tale.

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  • Epileptic

    2005 by David B.

    David B.'s graphic memoir describes his relationship to his epileptic brother and how through art, he was able to cope with his brother's illness. Originally published in France and a bestseller throughout Europe, this is one I'm definitely looking forward to reading.

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