A New Way to Read Biographies

~posted by Di Z.

The Infinite Wait and Other StoriesIn The Infinite Wait and Other Stories, Julia Wertz recounts the time she was diagnosed with lupus and was not able to read novels, one of her favorite pastimes. Wertz’s condition gave her intense headaches and the inability to concentrate, resulting in her trying without success to finish the same paragraph for an hour. As a last resort for entertainment, Wertz started reading comic books and quickly fell in love with them.

She realized that comics were not just newspaper funnies or Calvin and Hobbes-type books that were nostalgic remnants of her childhood. Comics can be poignant, philosophical, and funny in very adult ways, too. Comic books and graphic novels also make perfect reading material for people on the go, those who don’t normally read books, or people who have difficulty focusing on text alone.

Julia WertTomboyz’s stories are full of self-deprecation and morbidity, but her self-awareness and refusal to apologize for her misanthropic personality are extremely charming. In The Infinite Wait and Other Stories, Wertz reflects on her battle with lupus, her alcoholism, and her love of libraries, as well as a host of mundane topics with abundant humor.

Another one of my favorite graphic memoirs is Liz Prince’s Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir. Prince’s drawings are low-key, but her stories are wonderful. Tomboy documents Prince’s experiences growing up as- you guessed it- a tomboy and how she was pressured to fit into gender norms. Tomboy is a powerful testimony of nonconformity and a celebration of being oneself.

Cant-We-Talk-About-Something-More-PleasantCan’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?, a graphic memoir by Roz Chast, is about something no one wants to discuss— watching one’s parents get old, decline in mental and physical health, and die. Chast’s attention to detail, in her dialogue as well as drawings, is masterful. She even includes real photographs from her parent’s Brooklyn apartment, which her parents lived in for more than 50 years until they could no longer live on their own. This graphic memoir is deeply personal, brutally honest, and just plain funny.

Whether you usually hate reading, want to read a good book without needing to concentrate, or you love memoirs and are open to trying a different format, you should give graphic memoirs a try. Check out The Seattle Public Library’s website for more suggestions for graphic novels and comics.

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