Many readers are familiar with graphic novels, whether they’re superhero comics, manga series, adaptations of traditional prose novels, or standalone stories told in an illustrated format. But there’s another category of graphic books that aren’t considered novels at all — graphic nonfiction.
Graphic nonfiction is just like traditional nonfiction — factual information about people, events, topics or issues — but formatted like a graphic novel, with panels, text bubbles, and usually full-color artwork.
“Increasingly, creators are using the graphic novel format to tell difficult, complex stories . . . stories of refugees, genocide, and immigration, as well as books that grapple with consent and gender identity, benefit from the nuance of a pictorial format. Stylized cartoon art directs the reader’s focus to what the creator thinks is important—whether it’s a passerby’s reaction or action in the background. Artists can emphasize crucial details in a way that photographs cannot and provide big-picture context.” (Paula Willey, “12 Essential Nonfiction Graphic Novels for Kids and Teens“, School Library Journal, 23 April 2020).
There are hundreds of great examples of graphic nonfiction in the CA Library collection — search for “comics NOT fiction” in the CA Library catalog for a comprehensive list.
Here are some of the most recent examples of graphic nonfiction at CA Library:
Across The Tracks: Remembering Greenwood, Black Wall Street, and the Tulsa Race Massacre by Alverne Ball and Stacey Robinson — Introduces readers to the businesses and townsfolk who flourished in this unprecedented time of prosperity for Black Americans. We learn about Greenwood, Oklahoma in the years leading up to the 1921 massacre and why it is essential to remember the great achievements of the community as well as the tragedy which nearly erased it. “This short yet powerful, nonfiction graphic novel is an essential purchase for all public and school libraries” (School Library Journal).
The Black Panther Party: A Graphic Novel History by David F. Walker and Marcus Kwame Anderson — Using dramatic comic book-style retellings and illustrated profiles of key figures, award-winning comic book writer David Walker captures the major events, people, and actions of the Black Panther Party, as well as their cultural and political influence and enduring significance. “This nuanced and gripping history supplies much needed background for today’s activism relating to violence against Black people” (Library Journal).
Free Speech Handbook: A Practical Framework For Understanding Our Free Speech Protections by Ian Rosenberg and Mike Cavallaro — In this volume of the World Citizen Comics series, Rosenberg and Cavallaro create a practical framework for appreciating where our free speech protections have come from and how they may develop in the future. “This informative and inspiring guide looks past free-speech clichés to home in on how such rights are not chiseled in stone but fought over on an ever-shifting battlefield” (Publishers Weekly).
In The Shadow of the Fallen Towers: The Seconds, Minutes, Hours, Days, Weeks, Months, And Years After The 9/11 Attacks by Don Brown — This graphic novel chronicles the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City through moving individual stories that bear witness to history and the ways it shaped the future. “A succinct and impactful look at one of America’s worst tragedies, skillfully rendered by one of comics journalism’s best” (School Library Journal).
Let’s Make Dumplings! A Comic Book Cookbook by Hugh Amano and Sarah Becan — Includes dumpling history and lore, this comic book cookbook invites readers to explore the big little world of Asian dumplings and proves that intricate folding styles and flavorful fillings are achievable in the home kitchen. “Like their previous cookbook (Let’s Make Ramen), Amano and Becan’s latest will be welcomed by new and advanced cooks looking for fun approaches to the ever-popular dumpling” (Library Journal).
Let’s Talk About It: The Teen’s Guide To Sex, Relationships, and Being A Human by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan — An inclusive, accessible and honest graphic novel guide to growing up, from gender and sexuality to consent and safe sex. Perfect for any teen starting to ask…Is what I’m feeling normal? Is what my body is doing normal? Am I normal? How do I know what are the right choices to make? How do I fix it when I make a mistake? “Puts the graphic in the graphic-novel format, in the best and most educational way” (Kirkus Reviews).
My Body In Pieces by Marie-Noëlle Hébert — This all-too-relatable memoir follows Marie-Noelle from childhood to her twenties, as she navigates what it means to be born into a body that doesn’t fall within society’s beauty standards. When, as a young teen, Marie-Noelle begins a fitness regime in an effort to change her body, her obsession with her weight and size only grows and she begins having suicidal thoughts. Fortunately for Marie-Noelle, a friend points her in the direction of therapy, and slowly, she begins to realize that she doesn’t need the approval of others to feel whole. “A touching story about love, forgiveness, and self-acceptance” (Kirkus Reviews).
Run: Book One by John Lewis and Nate Powell — The continuation of the life story of the late Congressman John Lewis and the struggles seen across the United States after the Civil Rights Movement, detailing how Lewis entered politics, worked within his community, and organized a campaign that took him to one of the most important seats in Congress. “Teens eager for a deep dive into the intricacies of the civil rights movement could do no better than this personal account from one of its preeminent figures” (Booklist).
Save It For Later: Promises, Parenthood, and the Urgency of Power by Nate Powell — In seven interwoven comics essays, author and graphic novelist Nate Powell addresses living in an era of what he calls “necessary protest.” Powell highlights both the danger of normalized paramilitary presence symbols in consumer pop culture, and the roles we play individually as we interact with our communities, families, and society at large. “As the parent of two young daughters . . . Powell strives to teach them the value and importance of activism in the face of systemic racism, the threat of white supremacy, and the devastation wrought by Covid-19” (Publishers Weekly).
What Unites Us, The Graphic Novel: Reflections on Patriotism by Dan Rather and Tim Foley — In this graphic novel adaptation of his bestselling collection of essays, legendary news anchor Dan Rather provides a voice of reason and explores what it means to be a true patriot, from the freedoms that define us, to the values that have transformed us, to the institutions that sustain us. “Rather’s firsthand accounts of moments like Watergate and the civil rights movement will appeal to readers interested in a nuanced look at recent U.S. history” (School Library Journal).