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  • Writer's pictureThe Publishing Post

LGBTQIA+ Graphic Novels for Your Reading List

By Rhys Wright, Amy Blay, Shan Heyworth, Becca Binnie, and Rosie Green

With the incredibly exciting announcement that Heartstopper season three will return to our Netflix screens in October, when better to highlight a handful of important and inclusive graphic novels featuring and empowering the LGBTQIA+ community!

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

A milestone for both graphic novels and memoirs, Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home combines witty and intelligent prose with intricately drawn images in a book unlike any other. Subtitled “A Family Tragicomic,” it’s a coming-of-age story with humour and tragedy in spades.

It follows Bechdel’s reflection on the formative events of her childhood and her complicated relationship with her father. Growing up in a house straight out of an Addams Family cartoon with two emotionally reserved parents, Alison’s upbringing was unconventional. Her journey of growing up and embracing her lesbian identity stands in contrast with her father, a closeted gay man heading to an early death.

Bechdel uses her book to analyse her childhood and come to terms with the way her life turned out. As well as portraying queer sexuality, she uses the depiction of her relationship with her father to explore gender identity, with the two of them using each other as an outlet to escape the traditional gender roles they feel stifled by. Fun Home really is an unforgettable graphic novel and an essential queer memoir.

Nimona by ND Stevenson

Lord Ballister Blackheart has a vendetta, a complex rivalry with the man he loves, and a chaos-causing shapeshifter sidekick named Nimona. What starts as an attempt to unveil the secrets behind the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics becomes a battle bigger than Ballister could have anticipated, and it seems Nimona’s mysterious powers and past may pose a threat, too.

Though the characters’ queer identities are not the crux of ND Stevenson’s debut graphic novel, it is still refreshing casual representation in a larger story exploring the defiance of stereotypes, the fluidity of personal identity, and what friendship, love and “the greater good” truly mean. Nimona’s shapeshifting can be read as a transgender allegory, with Stevenson stating the story has “transness and gender fluidity at its heart” that served as an outlet to express his own fluid, non-conforming identity. 

The story was originally told as a webcomic over the span of two years, but the award-winning graphic novel compiling all the pages (with an additional epilogue) can be read in one sitting. It also received a Netflix film adaptation that is just as heartwarming and moving as the book – Nimona is definitely worth both a read and a watch!

Boys Run the Riot by Keito Gaku

For fans of manga, or anyone looking for a touching story about transgender experiences, Boys Run the Riot is a coming-of-age story with a beautiful art style and a powerful message.  

Ryo Watari is a transgender boy in high school who uses graffiti and fashion to express himself, but remains in the closet and grapples with feelings of dysphoria and hopelessness. When transfer student Jin Sato – who seems to not care what people think of him – discovers that they share similar tastes in fashion, he invites Ryo to start a clothing brand with him. This brand – Boys Run the Riot – becomes an outlet for the boys to express their frustrations and hopes, and stand up for the downtrodden.

Ryo’s story draws upon Gaku’s own experiences as a transgender man, and several aspects of Ryo’s life will be relatable to many transgender people. Addressing young transgender men, Gaku said that he wanted to show the importance of finding “a reason to keep going and something to pour your heart and soul into, like Ryo does with fashion.” However, as expressed within the manga itself, the strong emotions conveyed by art can connect with the audience on some level, and those who are outcast for various reasons can connect with each other.

Boys Run the Riot was translated from Japanese to English by a team of transgender and non-binary translators, and is available in four volumes. 

How to They/Them: A Visual Guide to Non-binary Pronouns and the World of Gender Fluidity by Stuart Getty

Published in 2020 by Sasquatch Books, How to They/Them unpacks the lack of wider understanding surrounding the non-binary and gender non-conforming communities. In a charming visual manner, Stuart Getty celebrates gender expression and freedom of identity. 

Encouraging positive and respectful questions, this book discusses everyday use of they/them pronouns, whilst drawing on important historical context and gender identity theory to create a constructive and inclusive guide. 

Personal and sincere, Getty keeps it simple and clear, placing the importance of education and acceptance in the spotlight. Inclusivity, and striving towards unconditional respect should be everyone’s priority and therefore this book is easily accessible and an important read.

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera and Celia Moscote

This heartwarming graphic novel follows Juliet as she comes out to her family before leaving the Bronx to complete her internship with Harlowe Brisbane, a feminist author who she thinks will give her the confidence to embrace her identity as a Latina lesbian. While tackling the obstacles of girlfriend drama, her mentor’s white feminism, and the question of whether her family will accept her, Juliet goes on a journey of exploration taking her through histories she was never taught and a community she is new to.

Juliet feels out of her depth when she hears those around her discuss pronouns and polyamory for the first time, and the book drives home the message that there’s always new things to learn, a comforting message for those just finding the community.

Gabby Rivera collaborates with Celia Moscote to bring her bestselling novel to life with vivid illustrations. With themes of intersectionality, race and identity, this is a perfect queer coming-of-age story for anyone looking for the confidence to embrace themselves as they are.



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