Illustrated Stories of Illustrious Ladies
One of my favorite genres of graphic novels is autobiographies and memoirs. I find something so intriguing about seeing the way artists represent their own selves and lives in their art. This list includes some autobiographical stories and memoirs from amazingly talented female writers and artists.
Some take you back in time to childhood, others take you around the world, some walk you through small moments. They all explore identity, relationships and womanhood. These women are sisters, friends, daughters, parents, partners and more. If you love stories about strong women and enjoy graphic novels, check some of these out.
The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
This is Marjane Satrapi's coming of age story. It follows her life growing up with her family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution, her adolescence in boarding school in Europe, her return to her family in Tehran, and then her adult decision to leave her homeland and reside in Paris. This work is heartbreaking, inspiring, and wonderfully told and illustrated.
El Deafo by Cece Bell
In this memoir, author and illustrator Cece Bell shares her childhood experiences. At a very young age she lost her hearing and spent most of her childhood wearing a Phonic Ear, a powerful, large, awkward hearing aid. She tries to fit in and also tries to escape by imagining herself a superhero with powers gained from the Phonic Ear. She names herself "El Deafo" and and fights her demons both real and imagined. This book is written with a young audience in mind, but older readers will enjoy Bell's humor and creativity.
For more, you can check out video of our interview with Cece Bell.
Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
Okay, yes, this is a children's book. Don't let that dissuade you from reading it, though! Anyone who has a sister can relate to this book. This autobiographical story of the evolving relationship between sisters as they grow up is smartly told, excellently drawn, and a truly enjoyable read.
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
Although this graphic novel is a work of fiction, it feels like a memoir or autobiographical account of that time between childhood and adulthood. Some of the inspiration for the book does come from the Mariko Tamaki's childhood memories of spending summers away at a cottage with her family. In This One Summer, Rose is on the cusp of adulthood. She's becoming aware of the issues between her parents, of boys, and of all the adult issues and feelings that are taking over her young life. This award-winning book is truly a work of art.
Good Eggs: A Memoir by Pheobe Potts
Potts shares her struggles of trying to become a mother in this touching memoir. She must deal with her infertility and the emotional repercussions of it on her relationship with her husband, her friends, and the rest of her family as well as the impacts it has on her life plans and dreams. The novel centers strictly on the issue of fertility, as alluded to by the title. It's an issue not often discussed and Potts shares her experiences with honesty and humor.
Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
Chast's cartoonish style lightens the heavy subject matter of this book. In it, she recounts her experiences dealing with the deaths of her parents. She explores her role as a daughter as she struggles to care for her dying parents and come to terms with the loss of them. This work is filled with love, humor, heartache, and truth.
Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, a Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss
This is the only book on the list that is not autobiographical in any way. The love, life, and work of two brilliant scientists, Marie and Pierre Curie, are woven together in this highly artistic biography. The book has passages that read like a scientific journal, some that feel like an artist’s notebook, and others that feel like a love story told in a novel. Redniss’s work definitely sheds a new light, perhaps one that glows in the dark*, on this famous couple and the complications of their love and their lives’ work. Although the work does focus on both scientists, Marie is at the forefront through much of it. Her identity of scientist, lover, and mother is examined in a soft and artistic way.*The cover of the book does actually glow in the dark. Turn the lights out and see for yourself!