The Reading Writers of Color Challenge is hosted by Dan Michael Fielding. The following recommendations were compiled with assistance from April Autumn, Lonely Cryptid Media’s lead artist.
Throughout running this challenge I have fielded many questions about whether or not reading a given thing “counts” as completing a prompt for the challenge. Many people have told me they don’t have time to read books and, therefore, that they can’t participate in the challenge.
I’ve had folks bemoan that novellas, collections, essays, poems, or even short stories don’t “count” for the challenge. For many people a lack of time encourages them to read shorter works or faster, lighter novels. I even fielded one question from a parent asking if reading a child’s book to their kids counted.
I’m here to say: Those all definitely count! Did you read words on a page or on a screen? Were those words penned by a Black, Indigenous, or writer of color? Congrats! You’re reading for the challenge!
I’m putting together this post to encourage you to expand your ideas of what “reading a book” means. Graphic novels are often maligned in popular discussion of what counts as serious reading, yet graphic novels can be just as breathtaking and thought-provoking as a well-written traditional novel. For some reason people believe that as soon as you add pictures it stops counting as reading, even though that couldn’t be further from the truth.
I’ve recommended a few graphic novels before, and I’d like to expand on that idea here in a dedicated post.
Graphic novels tend to be quicker reads, although that isn’t always the case. There’s a big difference between a shorter graphic novel like Surviving the City and the 350+ pages that make up Long Exposure. Whatever your time commitment you’re sure to find something on this list that will introduce you to a new creator whose work you’ll love.
As you’re considering what to read for this month’s challenge of a book by a queer or trans author of color you may want to look into some of these graphic novels.
Do you have a favorite graphic novel with a queer sensibility by an author of color? Let us know in the comments below. And now on with the recommendations!
Life of Melody by Mari Costa
Life of Melody is a queer romantic comedy about a fairy godfather and a terrible (and loveable) beast raising a human child together. The story is a fun take on the idea of fairy godparents and the notion of family. A culture gap between fairies and the humans they oversee has developed and Razzmatazz, a fairy godparent, has decided the best way to fix the problem is to raise his human from the ground up. Mari Costa is a Portugal-based artist with a number of stellar works, many of which can be found on Patreon.
Check Please! Book 1: #Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu
Check Please! is the story of Eric Bittle, a gentle southern boy who is famous for baking pies, figure skating, and vlogging. Bittle has just received a scholarship to play hockey at the prestigious Samwell University. Along the way he joins a frat, falls in love, and plays some pretty wicked hockey. Ukazu started the story as a webcomic and the story is now a collection after become the most-funded webcomics Kickstarter ever.
Displacement by Kiku Hughes
A teenage girl finds herself traveling through time from contemporary San Francisco to the 1940s where she meets her grandmother–a Japanese woman forcibly interned during World War II. As a self-identified member of the Japanese diaspora, Hughes weaves a riveting tale of intergenerational trauma and resiliency. Readers who are looking for a more explicitly queer story that still has that science fictional element may be interested in Hughes’ work in Beyond: the Queer Sci-Fi & Fantasy Comic Anthology edited by Sfé R. Monster.
The Surviving the City series follows Miikwan and Dez, two young Indigenous teenagers whose worlds are upset by the frequency of missing women in their lives. Their story mirrors that of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women globally and across North America. In volume 2, Dez’s story is expanded as she comes to accept her identity as a two-spirit person. Donovan (Métis) and Spillett (Inninewak (Cree) and Trinidadian) highlight important issues in the lives of Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people while also telling a compelling story about friendship and resilience.
Bingo Love by Joy San, Cardinal Rae, Tee Franklin, and Jenn St-Onge
Love, and the courage it takes to love openly, isn’t just a game for the young as Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray of Bingo Love prove. Their story spans a lifetime, beginning with a chance meeting at church bingo and continuing through the years as they are driven apart, marry young men, and have children and grandchildren. But when they meet again as grandmothers they find their love for each other hasn’t waned. Illustrated and written by a team of artists, this graphic novel is a must-read for anyone interested in a compelling queer love story.
Elements: Fire A Comic Anthology by Creators of Color! edited by Taneka Stotts
This well-selected collection of twenty-three stories by creators of color is prefect for anyone looking for brief introductions to new artists and writers. The reading writers of color challenge is all about expanding your reading list and finding new authors whose work you love. Many of the creators collected in this anthology also have standalone works that are sure to entice. This collection centers characters of color as the heroes of their own stories and deals with all manner of magic, fantasy, and of course, fire. This would also make a great addition to your reading list for July, when we’ll be reading collections of short stories, poetry, or essays.
Long Exposure by Kam “Mars” Heyward
Nerdy teen Jonas Wagner and his former childhood bully Mitch Mueller have to work together on a school project. A classic start to a coming-of-age romance that quickly takes a turn as the two stumble into a strange research center, develop super powers, and find themselves embroiled in a government cover up. Heyward weaves a story about falling in love and dealing with family trauma in this now-completed webcomic. If you like Heyward’s work you can find more by them in Electrum, the first ever anthology created entirely by mixed-race artists.
The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen
The first original graphic novel from skilled illustrator Trung Le Nguyen, The Magic Fish tells the story of Tiến, a young boy struggling to tell his parents, recent immigrants to America who primarily speak Vietnamese, that he is gay. Tiến and his family find solace and connection through fairy tales. This book is also suitable for young readers and would make an excellent addition to any shelf.
It’s very easy to go down the rabbit hole with any one of these books. Most graphic novel creators will also produce work for anthologies, which is a great way to find the work of other creators you’ll enjoy. I hope this post has inspired you to add a few new writers and illustrators to your “to read” list!
Do you have a graphic novel by a creator of color you’d like to recommend? Let us know in the comments! And happy reading!
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