“The Powerful Nature of Graphic Memoirs”
I think graphic memoirs are so powerful because not only are you reading a story but you can also visualize things as well. When I was thinking of creating my graphic memoir One in a Million there never was a doubt that it was going to be in graphic memoir format. I wanted to show what I went through. I knew I would have a hard time conveying what depression felt like in writing, but with my illustration background I sure knew how to show it.
Graphic memoirs are just that, memoirs that are created with graphics. While creating this book I first called it a “graphic novel memoir” just because I hadn’t heard the term graphic memoir, and because it gave people an idea that it would be similar to a graphic novel. The term “graphic novel memoir” always seemed like a misnomer because how can something be a novel and a memoir? It was only since Jarret J. Krosoczka’s Hey, Kiddo that I started hearing the term graphic memoir in use. It fit and since then I’ve heard many other books use that term too. I made sure that the term graphic memoir was on the cover of my book because I needed people to know that it’s a true story.
Since I started working on my book I have also learned about the term “graphic medicine”. This is a subgenre of comics, graphic novels, and graphic memoirs that depict or have themes relating to healthcare. One of the interesting ways graphic medicine is being used is in the medical humanities at medical schools. Medical students can gain an understanding of what a patient’s perspective may be.
The importance on memoirs, including graphic memoirs is that they give the reader an insight into another person’s life and perspective. This can help create compassion and empathy for others. My hope is that my book helps others that are going through something similar. I also hope that others gain some understanding of what being sick as a teen can entail (especially if someone looks “normal” on the outside). Everyone has a story to share. What will be yours?
Some of my favorite graphic memoirs:
- Smile by Raina Telgemeier
- Hey, Kiddo by Jarret J. Krosoczka
- A First Time for Everything by Dan Santat
- Parenthesis by Élodie Durand
- Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
- In Limbo by Deb JJ Lee
Everyone has a story to tell.
Create a short comic about an event in your life. It could be as simple as to your morning routine today to a big life event. Don’t worry about your art skills. Stick figures will work (see xkcd.com).
Some prompts: What is the happiest memory you have? What is the saddest memory you have? What was your day like yesterday? Draw a comic of your most recent birthday.
Create a grid on paper could be 4×4 or more, depending on how long you want your story to be (some comics are even just a single panel! I encourage starting with a 4×4 so you can show time passing). You can work on creating your characters separately or you can just jump into creating. Draw your character(s) and make sure to leave room for the text (if needed). Remember in comics half the story is in the art. So if you want to show someone putting on their shoes you don’t need to state it in the text (ex. ”…and then I put on my shoes.”) We don’t need the text because we can see it. Happy creating!
Published October 10th, 2023 by Candlewick Press
About the Book: Debut graphic novelist Claire Lordon’s medical misfortunes may be one in a million in this relatable memoir, but so is her determination, grit, and passion to beat the odds and reclaim her life.
Something is wrong with Claire, but she doesn’t know what. Nobody does, not even her doctors. All she wants is to return to her happy and athletic teenage self. But her accumulating symptoms—chronic fatigue, pounding headaches, weight gain—hint that there’s something not right inside Claire’s body. Claire’s high school experience becomes filled with MRIs, visits to the Mayo Clinic, and multiple surgeries to remove a brain tumor. But even in her most difficult moments battling chronic illness, Claire manages to find solace in her family, her closest friends, and her art. A deeply personal and visually arresting memoir that draws on the author’s high school diaries and drawings, One in a Million is also a sophisticated portrayal of pain, depression, and fear that any teen or adult can relate to. With a sensitive preface and an author’s note connecting past to present, this true story of resilience strikes a moving balance between raw honesty in the face of medical and mental trauma and the everyday musings of a teenager.
About the Author: Claire Lordon is an author, illustrator, and designer who creates children’s books, comics, murals, maps, and greeting cards. She is the author-illustrator of Lorenzo, the Pizza-Loving Lobster, the Taking a Walk series, and other picture books. One in a Million is her first graphic novel. Claire Lordon lives in Vancouver, Canada.
Thank you, Claire, for these writing prompts to get our students creating!