Thursday, August 14, 2014

Fiction Friction (#14): The Stigma Against Graphic Novels

These posts are meant to bring about some conversation, discussion, and perhaps even a debate. These discussion posts can occur at varying days of the week, mostly depending upon what's scheduled on the blog and what I feel like discussing.

I don't know if you've noticed recently, either on my blog or on Twitter, but I've been starting to read graphic novels. When I was younger, I read some manga but rarely any graphic novels. But I went to a signing at Books of Wonder that Gene Luen Yang was at, and that's really what started my plunge into graphic novels. I read American Born Chinese*, and I decided to look into some of the other books First Second Books released. I requested This One Summer and Gene's newest book, The Shadow Hero (highly recommended). I started part of Boxers and Saints, which I had picked up at the signing. 

And I started to fall in love with the ease of reading graphic novels. They're quick and fun to read. I also started to form a really great relationship with the publicist at First Second books. Since then, I've also received review copies of other books I requested. I recently fell in love with the Zita and the Spacegirl series (highly recommended).

But I also started to notice something. I guess I always knew about or had an inkling of the knowledge that it was occurring. When I received the last book of the Zita series, I needed to read the first two books first, obviously. So I got them through my library's interloan system. When I went to pick up the books at the library, however, I got a lot of puzzled faces and weird looks. It's like people think that graphic novels are just for young kids. After all, for the most part, the reading level needed to be able to comprehend and enjoy a graphic novel isn't as great as for a regular novel. And there are pictures, like children's books. As I was picking one of the books up (they came at separate times), a friend of mine was with me, and condescendingly asked why the heck I was taking out the book. First of all, there's nothing wrong with enjoying a children's/picture book. I think there's a lot to learn from them, and most of them are actually very entertaining. It's the same with middle grade books. People look at you weirdly if you're obviously older than the age of most middle grade readers. I'm sure adult readers of YA get the same reaction towards them reading YA. 

There's just something about graphic novels that people just can't seem to accept (if you're a teen or older). First Second Books and their team have actually written a couple of similar posts, and I think it was Shannon Hale that recently tweeted about how great graphic novels are for readers at every level. There's a depth to graphic novels that most people can't see from the surface. I especially learned that when reading Zita and The Shadow Hero. Yeah, I enjoy them because they're quick and easy to read, but I also get something out of these books. The Shadow Hero impacted me in so many ways that I wasn't expecting, and Gene's other works do the same for me. As an Asian American, I can't tell you how grateful I am that Gene's work is out there and that I've been able to have the pleasure of reading them. 

People will look at you funny for reading books at any level other than the one you're supposed to fit in. But it's even greater for graphic novels because they're not quite any other type of genre; they fit in their own genre, yet they also work within other genres (if that makes any sense). I encourage all of you to try out a graphic novel sometime. It reads differently from a book for both obvious and obscure reasons. It reminds you of how well writing and images go together, as well as how many aspects of a story you can glean from a picture. I think that's partially why there are always aspects of a book adapted movie that you'll likely enjoy more than you did in the book. In fact, there are rare movies where I enjoyed the movie more than the book because the movie and images helped me to better understand the story. Images are important too. Just as important as words. I'm in no way dissing traditional novels or saying they are worse for their lack of images. There's just something about a well-done graphic novel that makes it so different from a novel--but not in a bad way.

I'm actually very glad that this year's Banned Books Week is celebrating graphic novels. Because there are readers of every age that enjoy graphic novels. There are so many people that read graphic novels that wouldn't be reading anything otherwise. So why is there such a stigma against older people (as in not children) reading these books? They're so valuable to the literary world, yet non-children are almost shamed, humiliated, and/or made fun of for reading graphic novels. We need to change this, whether we read graphic novels ourselves or not. Because nobody should feel bad about reading what they enjoy. No one.

*All links from book titles in this post link to my review of the book(s).

1 comment:

  1. I've gotten the looks too. I read a lot of children/middle grade books and I don't understand why people care what I'm reading. I like kids books because some of them have actual depth while others are just ridiculously entertaining! My mom the other day called the graphic novels I checked out cartoons. What are you even saying woman!!?? Graphic Novels may have illustrations in them but it doesn't diminish their value. And sometimes I do take out picture books from the library and I feel weird doing so. I don't have a child but sometimes I've heard great things and I like the artist... As readers we should be able to read anything we want without any negative effects from other people's opinions.

    P.S. You should read Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks! I read the first book and loved it. It's actually a web series so it's free! (: ~ It's so good though so it kind of makes you want to buy the book.


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