Five Graphic Novels from 2016 to Read over the Holidays

By Maya Acharya


Wage Slaves
By Daria Bogdanska


An autobiographical work about everyday alienation in a foreign place, Wage Slaves outlines Daria’s real life experience of moving from Poland to Malmö, Sweden, three years ago. Here, she tries to carve out a life and a home for herself. She gets a job at a restaurant where she faces the struggles of working illegally with no rights and little pay. The characters we meet live precariously, on the fringes of mainstream society; they have no security and no money. What I appreciate about this book is its focus on uncomfortable truths of social and structural inequality, shredding apart the myth of Sweden as a utopia for labour rights and welfare. And on the subject of shredding, when Daria isn’t busy illustrating, she also performs in the local punk band ‘Två Krig’ cos she’s badass like that.


Threadbare: Clothes, Sex & Trafficking
By Anne Elizabeth Moore

How often do you think about where your clothes come from and at whose expense they were made? If the links between fashion, colonialism and patriarchy have never really been on your radar, then this is required reading. Anne Elizabeth presents her research through illustrations by different comic artists, weaving together capitalism, consumerism, feminism and sex trafficking into an intricate picture of the true cost of high street brands. Although the focus is mostly on connecting the garment industry to the sex trade, voices of workers in places like Cambodia and India also call on us think about the racialised aspects of outsourcing labour to produce fast fashion for the ‘West’. 


By Kwanza Osajyefo

In the year that the Black Lives Matter movement exploded, Colin Kaepernick took a knees, and a string of fatal police shootings of young Black men made global headlines, BLACK, a graphic novel that explores race through the superhero genre, couldn’t be more relevant. In the novel, Kwanza (an ex-digital editor at Marvel) explores the racism present, not only in society-at-large, but also within the comics industry by asking, 'in a world in which they are already feared, what if Black people had superpowers?’ 


An Olympic Dream: The Story of Samia Yusuf Omar
By Reinhard Kleist

I wish I could slyly slip an edition of this book into the xmas stockings of every xenophobia-spewing politician in Europe at the moment (so like, basically all of them). The biography of Samia Yusuf Omar is told in this black-and-white graphic novel, following her from her childhood in war-torn Somalia to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where as a 17-year-old she competed as a runner. Intent on returning to the next Olympics in London, she faces the harsh realities of training as a female athlete in Somalia and eventually goes on a perilous journey to make it across the Mediterranean. A poignant statement on the international community's failures towards upholding the rights and humanity of refugees. 


Queer: A Graphic History
By Meg-John Barker & Julia Scheele

This is at the top of my holiday reading list: a graphic novel that is exactly what it says on the cover – an initiation into all things queer. It's a perfectly digestible breakdown of what can be a confusing territory of theory, concepts, definitions and inter-group discussions. A brilliant book for anyone who wants to delve deeper into understanding the history, science, phycology, and cultural and social aspects of what it means to be queer.


Maya Acharya