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Find more A New Hope
Lately, my bookshelf has been full of hope.
Books about hockey, summer camp, witches, dresses, and college experiences sit side by side, a collection of bright, colorful graphic novels filled with stories that have given me courage, challenged me to be kinder, and reshaped the way I see the world. And while they’re all stories starring LGBTQIA+ characters, they’re also a little more than that; these stories are part of an emerging genre I’ve started to refer to as “soft, queer graphic novels.”
Queer stories are no stranger to the graphic novel format. For decades, comics, zines, and other artistic print media have been an outlet for queer people to express themselves, share their stories, and relate to one another. These stories have often been raw, powerful, and devastatingly sad, because the true stories queer folx have been a part of for so long are stories of loss, rejection, and crushing loneliness. Of course, those stories are important and accurate reflections of what it has meant to be a non-cisgender and/or non-straight person in this world. They are necessary and true and essential for understanding the queer experience both historically and in this moment. But for so long, reading queer stories often meant seeing largely only these hopeless themes, or seeing happiness only within a limited context.
In recent years, however, a new generation of queer stories has entered the world, and a growing number of them end with happily-ever-afters or, at the very least, the promise of the possibility. These are stories of characters with diverse backgrounds and identities and dreams and hopes and friends, taking each day as it comes with hope and love. And for me, they have been everything. These are stories that allow me to better understand other people and give me, a queer twentysomething still trying to figure out life, hope that queer people can do more than just survive—we can grow and love and be who we are, and we can be really, truly happy. These stories validate me and encourage me to reject shame and judgment and to help others to do the same. They’re a reminder that everyone deserves to be really and truly loved, not as some heroic act by others to see past or ignore who you are, but to be loved for every part of you.
It’s a testament to how needed these stories are that so many started out as crowd-funded projects or independent webcomics, because the community needed them before publishers decided to support them. Thankfully, many publishers have recognized the importance of these comics and are making them more widely available in print, such as Ngozi Ukazu’s Check, Please! and Keezy Young’s Taproot, which makes it even easier for libraries to collect them.
We need these stories in our libraries. We need these words and images of hope in the hands of young people who are trying to figure out who they are, as well as young people who aren’t but whose friends and loved ones might be. We need them in the hands of adults supporting their kids, supporting themselves, and supporting each other. We need them in the hands of teachers and librarians, creating a safe space for everyone. We need them in the hands of every single person to make this world a better, kinder, more hopeful place.
The Backstagers, v.1. By James Tynion IV. Illus. by Rian Sygh. 2017. Boom! Studios, $14.99 (9781608869930).
Jory joins a diverse band of other interesting folks as part of his school’s stage crew and learns that his life, and that one strange door backstage, might both be more magical than he ever imagined.
Check Please! #Hockey. By Ngozi Ukazu. Illus. by the author. 2018. First Second, $23.99 (9781250177957).
Former figure skater Eric Bittle has arrived at college with infectious enthusiasm, a hockey scholarship, and serious baking skills. But can he also learn to make friends, overcome his fear of getting checked, and figure out his feelings toward Jack, the team captain?
Drama. By Raina Telgemeier. Illus. by the author. 2012. Scholastic/Graphix, $23.99 (9780545326988).
Callie is ready to take her school musical to the next level by designing the greatest set known to middle-school theater. Her plans get complicated, though, by crushes, new friends, and low theater budgets.
Giant Days, v.1. By John Allison. Illus. by Lissa Treiman and Whitney Cogar. 2015. Boom! Studios, paper, $9.99 (9781608867899).
College is an exciting, confusing, terrifying time of life for most people, and Esther, Susan, and Daisy are no exception. Struggling to balance classwork, extracurriculars, and budding romances, the three girls stumble through the existential crisis–inducing world of college.
Lumberjanes, v.1: Beware the Kitten Holy. By Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis. Illus. by Brooke Allen. 2015. Boom! Studios, $14.99 (9781608866878).
Welcome to the Lumberjanes’ Camp for Hardcore Lady Types, where being yourself helps you form friendships and what makes you unique helps your cabin defeat river monsters, dinosaurs, and Greek gods and still be back in time to earn another badge before your counselor realizes you’re gone.
Meal. By Blue Delliquanti and Soleil Ho. Illus. by Blue Delliquanti. 2018. Iron Circus, $15 (9781945820304).
Yarrow moves to Minneapolis hoping to work for Chandra Flores, a chef whose new restaurant specializes in entomophagy, the eating of insects. Yarrow’s passionate about it, and that passion is pretty adorable to her new neighbor, Milani. As a sweet romance grows between the two women, Yarrow learns even more about the complex issues around eating insects.
Mooncakes. By Suzanne Walker. Illus. by Wendy Xu. 2019. Lion Forge/Roar, $14.99 (9781549303043).
Mooncakes tells the story of a teen witch who helps run her nanas’ magic bookshop, as she unexpectedly reunites with her childhood werewolf crush and navigates love, family, and her hopes for the future. A heartwarming, cozy, and magical story.
The Prince and the Dressmaker. By Jen Wang. Illus. by the author. 2018. First Second, $24.99 (9781250159854).
Frances is a seamstress who dreams of being a renowned dressmaker, and she gets her chance when Prince Sebastian approaches her with a special request: make beautiful, scene-stealing gowns . . . for him. A compelling story about having the courage to chase your dreams, be who you are, and be true to your heart.
Princess Princess Ever After. By Katie O’Neill. Illus. by the author. 2016. Oni, $12.99 (9781620103401).
Princess Sadie has been trapped in a tall tower and is pretty sure that the new hero who arrives on horseback to rescue her will be the same as all the others who have already tried and failed to rescue her. But Amira is no prince; she’s a princess with a plan . . . and a grappling hook.
Pumpkinheads. By Rainbow Rowell. Illus. by Faith Erin Hicks and Sarah Stern. 2019. First Second, $24.99 (9781250312853).
Deja and Josiah are working their final shift at the seasonal pumpkin patch where they’ve worked together for the last four years. Excited and nervous for the future, the two set off for one last adventure through the sprawling patch, revisiting all of their old memories and dreams on the way.
Taproot. By Keezy Young. Illus. by the author. 2017. Lion Forge/Roar, $10.99 (9781941302460).
This sweet paranormal romance stars Hamal, a gentle gardener who’s tasked with solving some minor supernatural disturbances while accompanied by his friend Blue, a ghost. Blue and Hamal’s relationship grows deeper as the pair investigate some ghostly disappearances in this lushly drawn graphic novel.
The Witch Boy. By Molly Knox Ostertag. Illus. by the author. 2017. Scholastic/Graphix, $24.99 (9781338089523).
What Aster wants more than anything in the world is to be a witch. However, per the rules of his family, only girls can become witches. With all of his courage, and the help of a new friend, Aster decides to follow his dream and discover what it would mean for him to be a witch boy.
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