The best graphic novels about being in a new place (physical or emotional)

Who am I?

Coming-of-age stories have always appealed to me because of their focus on an internal struggle. They’re usually juxtaposed with a changing landscape or moving to a new place. In broad strokes, coming-of-age stories focus on personal identity and our place in our day-to-day world. As someone who’s born in the US but grew up on the Mexican side but currently lives in California, the questions of what aspects of me are American and which are Mexican have been ongoing. With that in mind, these five books speak to me in a profound way, and I'm happy they exist as comics. 


I wrote...

Twin Cities

By José Pimienta,

Book cover of Twin Cities

What is my book about?

Twin Cities is a thoughtful and sweet look at two siblings growing apart as they continue their education on the different sides of the Mexico-US border. While Teresa adjusts to school in a foreign language, Fernando discovers that middle school in Mexico is a completely different place than elementary school. 

The books I picked & why

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Be Prepared

By Vera Brosgol,

Book cover of Be Prepared

Why this book?

This book is about a kid who goes to sleep away camp for the first time with the intention to make friends and be closer to her culture. However, things don’t go so well. 

Vera Brosgol is a fantastic storyteller mastering facial expressions and acting. Her environments, as well, are rich and specific to the region where the story takes place. And yet they never out-stage the characters. 

On a separate note, I appreciate Vera Brosgol deliberately putting Russian signage and having some dialogues in Russian, as it shows the two linguistic worlds in which she lives.


The American Dream? A Journey on Route 66 Discovering Dinosaur Statues, Muffler Men, and the Perfect Breakfast Burrito

By Shing Yin Khor,

Book cover of The American Dream? A Journey on Route 66 Discovering Dinosaur Statues, Muffler Men, and the Perfect Breakfast Burrito

Why this book?

This is a non-fiction book about an artist doing a road trip with an adorable dog by the name of Bug. As they travel the historic highway, Shing Yin Khor reflects on this country’s history, what it can mean to live in the US as a person of color and why we’re often left with more questions than satisfying answers. Even the title reflects this as it’s an interrogative sentence rather than a declarative one. It’s a very personal journey and it reads like a friend telling you about their trip. There are various segments where the scenery does the talking.

As someone who did not grow up in this country, I have been in a similar headspace. I love this book.


Stepping Stones

By Lucy Knisley,

Book cover of Stepping Stones

Why this book?

This book speaks to me because Lucy Knisley talks about Siblinghood. Having siblings, in any form, is complicated. In this story, Jen moves from the city to a farm and has to adapt to sharing a room with two new step-sisters. As I read this story, multiple passages reminded me about my own experiences with my siblings. Even though I look back on them fondly, at the time, the feelings were different, to say the least. I smiled a lot while reading it. 

What makes this book stand out to me is the care Lucy Knisley puts into the details that adorn life on the farm: tools, chickens, vegetable gardens, and farmers markets to name a few. 


Dodo

By Felipe Nunes,

Book cover of Dodo

Why this book?

This is a story about someone going through something difficult and not having the words to verbalize why it is having a drastic impact. The premise is simple: Laila’s parents are going through a separation and she has to stay home. One day, she sees a giant bird across the street and allows him to enter her house. Laila tries to keep him a secret, but this bird has other plans. To me, this book is about visualizing a difficult or unnamed emotion. It shows how messy such a process can be. Also, the illustrations are delightful.  


Displacement

By Kiku Hughes,

Book cover of Displacement

Why this book?

This book depicts the complexities of generational trauma. Kiku, our protagonist, discovers that she can go back in time and experience what her ancestors went through during the second world war. Kiku Hughes dives into the daily lives of citizens living in Japanese internment camps. It’s a brave look at the complicated relationship a person can have with the place they live in, given the difficulties their ancestries have gone through. Also, Kiku Hughes is an amazing illustrator. The bulk of the storytelling is through her depictions of the United States throughout different decades. 


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in comics, Japanese Americans, and farms?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about comics, Japanese Americans, and farms.

Comics Explore 111 books about comics
Japanese Americans Explore 29 books about Japanese Americans
Farms Explore 38 books about farms

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