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Beyond Manga: The Asian American Experience in Graphic Novels

By Skokie Staff Adult Services

Many people still think of manga as a Japanese graphic novel when talking about graphic novels with Asian protagonists. Here we have curated several graphic novels written or illustrated by Asian American creators.

  • I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir

    2019 by Gharib, Malaka

    "This charming graphic memoir riffs on the joys and challenges of developing a unique ethnic identity. With a Catholic Filipino mother, whom she lives with in Southern California; a close-knit extended Filipino family; and an Egyptian Muslim father and mother-in-law, whom she visits in the summer after her parents' divorce, Gharib tries to find a balance between the cultures that are her heritage." (Publishers Weekly) Recommended by Lukie.

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  • They Called Us Enemy

    2019 by Takei, George

    George Takei drew on his own experiences as a child in a Japanese American detention camp during World War II in this graphic memoir that has won multiple awards. It is a landmark work of testimony as moving as it is important. Recommended by Steven.

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  • Mooncakes

    2019 by Walker, Suzanne

    A graphic novel about a teen witch who works in her grandmothers' bookstore and helps their town with all of the magical problems that pop up. According to School Library Journal, "This sweet, spellbinding story will appeal to fans of magic and romance." Recommended by Becca.

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  • The American Dream? A Journey on Route 66

    2019 by Khor, Shing Yin

    Shing Yin Khor brings an immigrant's eye to overlooked areas of their new country as they travel the fabled Route 66 from California to Chicago. You don't need to be a newcomer to appreciate their insightful takes on a changing United States in this charming travelogue. Recommended by Steven.

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  • Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations

    2018 by Jacob, Mira

    "A novelist explores the perils and joys of parenting, marriage, and love in this show-stopping memoir about race in America. When her 6-year-old, half-Jewish, half-Indian son, Z, started asking complicated questions about Michael Jackson's skin color, Jacob (The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing, 2014) faced the challenge of being honest about racism in America without giving him answers that might be too much to handle at such a tender age. The result is this series of illustrated conversations between Z and the author, by turns funny, philosophical, cautious, and heartbreaking." (Kirkus) Recommended by Chris.

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  • Displacement

    2020 by Hughes, Kiku

    This is kind of a time-travel book, deeply rooted in generational memory. We so often hear that we need to learn history so it doesn’t repeat itself. However, I think that is impossible to do if our history classes and books don’t acknowledge the horrible deeds of the past. This book will definitely help you with that. The illustrations perfectly set the tone of this book. Recommended by Allyson.

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  • Everything Is Beautiful, and I'm Not Afraid: A Baopu Collection

    2020 by Xiao, Yao

    The author describes this graphic novel as “exploring the poetics of searching for identities, connections, and friendships through the fictional life of a young, queer immigrant Baopu.” It's inspired by Xiao’s own experiences as a queer China-born illustrator living in New York City. I originally thought I was going to get through it pretty quickly, but I found myself sitting and reflecting on it a lot more than I had thought I would. It’s so great. Recommended by Allyson.

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  • Immigratitude: Tales of Asian Immigration

    2021

    An impressive and diverse roster of Asian creators contribute nonfiction accounts of their experiences to this collection, focusing particularly on their relationships with their parents. A unique and valuable anthology! Recommended by Steven.

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