Comic book memoirs and family secrets

Several talented cartoonists have used comics memoir (also called graphic memoir) to chronicle their family stories. Alison Bechdel has rightly received much acclaim for her books Fun Home and Are You My Mother? which closely examine her relationships with her father and mother respectively. Below are several more comics which deftly explore complex familial relationships.

YNN3 cover imageYou’ll Never Know Trilogy by C. Tyler

Over the course of the You’ll Never Know Trilogy, Tyler explores her relationship with her father by examining his traumatic World War II experiences and how they shaped her childhood. Tyler also details her present day relationship with her parents and the challenges she faces in raising her own daughter. Lush watercolors and innovative design frequently give the books the feel of a personal artifact or family album.

Special Exits cover imageSpecial Exits by Joyce Farmer

In a heart-rending comic that is loving, but not sentimental, Farmer chronicles her parents’ declining health and eventual deaths. Special Exits provides a nuanced and clear-eyed representation of parents Lars and Rachel as they adapt to worsening health issues while Farmer attempts to help them through situations in which there are no clear solutions. It is hard to imagine a more honest and skillful depiction of the painful process of end of life care.

Calling Dr Laura cover imageCalling Dr. Laura by Nicole J. Georges

At age twenty-three, Georges visits a psychic and is told (among a series of wildly off-base claims) that her father is still alive. This statement proves to be true, despite what Georges has been told by her family since she was two. Learning this family secret leads Georges to question her history and identity while she struggles to maintain a relationship with her mother and build a life with her girlfriend Radar.

Vietnamerica cover imageVietnamerica: A Family’s Journey by G.B. Tran

Growing up in South Carolina as the son of immigrants who fled Vietnam during the fall of Saigon, Tran knew little of his family history. In his late 20s, Tran visited Vietnam for the first time and began to learn the family’s stories and secrets. Vietnamerica chronicles the Tran family’s harrowing experience during the Vietnam War and their reinvention in the United States.

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