Mothers in Graphic Novels and Memoirs
In celebration of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival taking place May 13 and 14 at Toronto Reference Library, and as a Mother's Day tribute to moms everywhere (hi mom!), I offer you this list of mothers in graphic novels and memoirs.
In this charming graphic memoir, Katherine Arnoldi shares her experience of becoming a mom at age 17 in a working class town, with little support from her family, and a determination to get a college education. Although the subject matter is serious and often heartbreaking – her pregnancy is the result of rape, she is abandoned by her sister and mother, and exploited in her workplace – the black and white illustrations are sweet and even cheerful, and her message is ultimately a positive one for teen moms everywhere.
Alison Bechdel's mother is an avid reader and amateur actor, but also a remote figure who is unhappily married to a closeted gay man, and who stops kissing her daughter good-night at the age of seven. In this emotionally honest and visually compelling graphic memoir – the sequel to the brilliant Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic – Bechdel draws on psychoanalytic ideas and literary works to explore her fraught relationship with her mother as well as her own development as an artist.
While looking through her parents' dresser drawer, Catherine Margaret Flaherty discovers her own adoption papers. So begins her search for her birth mother, told here in a wordless graphic narrative that earned Doherty a nomination for the 2001 Eisner Award for Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition.
Just minutes after Bill Griffith's father died from a bicycle accident in 1972, his mother informed him that she'd had a 16-year affair with another man. This graphic memoir, by the creator of Zippy the Pinhead, depicts Griffith's quest to uncover the whole story, and incorporates details from his mother's diary and unpublished novel, as well as novels written by her lover, cartoonist and crime novelist Lawrence Lariar, all rendered in Griffith's celebrated underground comix style.
After her 15-year marriage ends, 37-year-old Russian immigrant Lena Finkle discovers the world of online dating and embarks on a quest for sex, love and American identity, all while raising her two teenage daughters. Anya Ulinich's artwork juxtaposes moody realism with witty cartoons and works to evoke the complexities of memory and emotion in this sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, graphic novel.
Brian Fies' graphic memoir tells the story of his mother's life-altering cancer diagnosis and its effect on his mom as well as the entire family. Mom's Cancer was originally published online in serial format for which it won the 2005 Eisner Award for Best Digital Comic.
This debut graphic novel tells the story of a father and son struggling to come to terms with the death of the family's mother. Told mostly from the perspective of the seven-year-old son, this is a very sad story about grief, loss and mental illness, very beautifully told. If you love Jimmy Corrigan or Wes Anderson, you're sure to be a fan of Paul Hornschemeier.
In simple black and white illustrations and clear, direct prose, Sarah Leavitt recounts the story of her mother's transformation from a sharp, outspoken and vibrant woman to a forgetful and fearful shadow of her formal self, now experiencing Alzheimer's disease. Tangles was nominated for the 2010 Writer's Trust Award, the first graphic narrative to be a finalist in that category.
Zahra's Paradise is the fictionalized version of real-life events: a mother's determined search for her son, a young protestor who disappears following the 2009 elections in Iran. Originally published anonymously online, Zahra's Paradise was nominated for the 2011 Eisner Award for Best Digital Comic.
This is a revised version of a previously published TPL blog post.