Graphic novels not only provide fun and engaging stories, but they can also be great places to tell pro-social tales and spread awareness. We put together a list of great graphic novels from the past year, both fiction and nonfiction, that deal with important issues (and also make great gifts!)
What sort of issues? Well, we have stuff on the civil rights movement, the Holocaust, LGBTQ issues and child soldiers. Just ’cause these books have pictures doesn’t mean they can’t deal with serious topics. If you’re holiday shopping for friends and fam who like graphic novels, or would like to use graphic novels to teach more people about vital subjects, take a look at our list.
+ A Bag of Marbles
Joseph Joffo was a young Jewish boy during the time of the Holocaust. His father was killed in a concentration camp, but Joffo survived and wrote about his experience in the memoir “A Bag of Marbles,” which has been translated into about 20 languages. A graphic novel adaptation was made, and it tells the real-life story of a young boy’s fight for survival in 1940s Europe.
Congressman John Lewis was one of the most important people in the civil rights movement, and his graphic novel “March,” which he co-wrote with staff member Andrew Aydin, tells his story and his involvement with civil rights. Congressman Lewis gave an interview to MTV Act about the importance of standing up for one’s rights, and anyone who reads his book can understand his passion and commitment.
+ War Brothers
There are child soldiers around the world, and author Sharon McKay showed the reality of a child soldier in the Lord’s Resistance Army. “War Brothers” was originally published as a prose book and got a graphic novel adaptation to spread awareness to more people. While it isn’t exactly nonfiction, it is a composite of real people and real happenings, so you can’t really call it fiction, either. MTV Act interviewed McKay earlier this year about her book and how people can help child soldiers.
+ Blue Is the Warmest Color
This graphic novel, which was originally published in French, has been adapted into an award-winning movie. Clementine is a French teen who is questioning her sexuality and eventually falls in love with Emma, a woman she meets at a gay bar. Clem’s parents and some of her friends are opposed to the relationship, but she knows that she will stick with Emma no matter what. There’s some adult stuff in here, so just be aware this isn’t a stocking stuffer for kids.
+ The Heart of Thomas
Fans know that LGBTQ characters are pretty common in manga, but that wasn’t always the case. “The Heart of Thomas,” which was first published in Japan in the 1970s, showed gay and questioning characters at an all-boys boarding school. The book was so influential that it deserves a lot of the credit for manga’s gay-friendliness today. This past year was the first time “The Heart of Thomas” was available to English readers.
+ Hip Hop Family Tree
OK, OK, you caught us — “Hip Hop Family Tree” doesn’t technically have a pro-social bent to it (though readers of MTV Act know that many in the hip-hop community are big on giving back). At MTV we’re a little partial about music, and if you’ve ever been curious about the origins of hip-hop and wanted to read about it with pictures, then check this out.
Read War Brothers to get a better understanding of child soldiers.
The Holocaust's History
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has a detailed history of the Holocaust.