Graphic novels are in their heyday of storytelling and creative expression. Stories and memoirs accompanied by illustrations can provide a meaningful, immersive reading experience. This is definitely the case with immigrant and refugee experiences. Embracing diverse themes and art styles, these books feature immigrant and refugee stories tying into this year's One Book, One Chicago theme “Beyond Borders” and are great companion reads to Exit West.
George Takei portrays the hardships and discrimination Japanese Americans experienced during and after World War II in his graphic memoir They Called Us Enemy. Takei begins with his family’s journey to an internment camp in rural Arkansas after they were removed from their home without warning. This eye-opening read recounts what it's like being treated as an outsider in your own country. It also sheds light on a part of U.S. history that's rarely talked about.
Author and illustrator Malaka Gharib shares her experience growing up in an immigrant family chasing the American dream. As the child of a Filipino mother and an Egyptian father, Gharib had to balance different family traditions and expectations. With time, she forges her own unique ethnic identity as a young Filipino Egyptian American. I Was Their American Dream provides a personal perspective on cultural identity and the pressures of fitting in.
Sea Prayer is an illustrated short story about a father writing to his young son the night before their journey across the Mediterranean Sea as they flee war-torn Syria. The father is writing this letter in the case of separation or death. The Kite Runner author Khaled Hosseini depicts the refugee experience and the search for safety and stability in a unique, heart-wrenching way.
Written and illustrated by Thi Bui, The Best We Could Do portrays Bui’s experiences as a Vietnamese American. As Bui interweaves her family immigration journey through her mother and father’s memories, she explores how these experiences impact her and her siblings as they build their own lives in America. Bui also provides insight into the brutality and instability of Vietnam during times of political unrest.
Interested in even more graphic memoirs and graphic novels exploring this year’s theme of "Beyond Borders?" Check out my Beyond Borders: Graphic Memoirs and Graphic Novels About Immigrant and Refugee Experiences booklist.