The best graphic novels about self-discovery

Who am I?

I'm a queer author and illustrator who has always had a passion for unique and boundary-pushing comics and graphic novels. It's a genre that has spoken to me throughout my life and this list converges my love for the format as well as the subject matter that's impacted the most vulnerable and pivotal times of my own life. So much of my experience being alive has been about figuring out who I am, and that's what my own graphic novel deals with. It seems fitting that I'd recommend a list of books that details others doing the same as I have, but in their own way.


I wrote...

A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities

By Mady G., Jules Zuckerberg,

Book cover of A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities

What is my book about?

In this quick and easy guide to queer and trans identities, cartoonists Mady G and Jules Zuckerberg guide you through the basics of the LGBT+ world! Covering essential topics like sexuality, gender identity, coming out, and navigating relationships, this guide explains the spectrum of human experience through informative comics, interviews, worksheets, and imaginative examples. A great starting point for anyone curious about queer and trans life, and helpful for those already on their own journeys!

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of One! Hundred! Demons!

Mady G. Why did I love this book?

A funny yet sensitive memoir anthology telling the story of author Lynda Barry's young life, growing up in the turbulent 1960s. The artwork is vibrant and unique, featuring everything from sequined collages to ghostly sumi ink sketches. The book served as both a creative and therapeutic outlet for the author, as she states in the introduction, and this definitely comes across through her many coming-of-age tales within the volume. One of the first alternative comics I was ever exposed to. This book deals with themes of drugs and sex, just to mention. 

By Lynda Barry,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked One! Hundred! Demons! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Inspired by a 16th-century Zen monk s painting of a hundred demons chasing each other across a long scroll, acclaimed cartoonist Lynda Barry confronts various demons from her life in seventeen full colour vignettes. In Barry s hand, demons are the life moments that haunt you, form you and stay with you: your worst boyfriend; kickball games on a warm summer night; watching your baby brother dance; the smell of various houses in the neighbourhood you grew up in; or the day you realize your childhood is long behind you and you are officially a teenager. As a cartoonist, Lynda…


Book cover of The Prince and the Dressmaker

Mady G. Why did I love this book?

A beautifully drawn, full-color graphic novel about a dressmaker and a prince finding both commonality with each other as well as more about themselves in the process. It's a great modern fairytale that deals with themes of gender nonconformity and non-binary identity in a very honest yet tactful way. A must-have for parents of queer children or for the children themselves. A truly fun and engaging all-ages read.

By Jen Wang,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Prince and the Dressmaker as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

A fairy tale for any age, Jen Wang's The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart.

Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:

Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride—or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia—the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!

Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances—one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears…


Book cover of No Ivy League

Mady G. Why did I love this book?

A modestly-paced and personally relatable tale of the author's experience volunteering for an invasive ivy cleanup crew. The semi-fictionalized account highlights various social struggles and teen drama as well as difficulties with personal identity along the way. The energy this book captures is palpable and it's very easy as a reader to be drawn into Hazel's retelling of their memorable experience throttling ivy with their peers, confronting their own fears and biases along the way.

By Hazel Newlevant,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked No Ivy League as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When 17-year-old Hazel Newlevant takes a summer job clearing ivy from the forest in her home town of Portland, Oregon, her only expectation is to earn a little money. Homeschooled, affluent, and sheltered, Hazel soon finds her job working side by side with at-risk teens to be an initiation into a new world that she has no skill in navigating. This uncomfortable and compelling memoir is an important story of a girl's awakening to the racial insularity of her life, the power of white privilege, and the hidden story of segregation in Portland.


Book cover of The Pervert

Mady G. Why did I love this book?

A truly singular book that details a semi-fictionalized account of a transgender sex worker surviving in Seattle. Depicted as a cute anthropomorphic dog-like creature, the story follows her as she meets with various clients and navigates her own identity struggles and in-progress transition (not to mention her own safety in her dangerous line of work). A deeply emotional and raw story that still manages to retain its own dark sense of humor throughout.

(Deals with themes of drugs, sex, and violence. 18+ only.)

By Michelle Perez,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Pervert as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

Vulture/NY Magazine's Best Comics of 2018

A surprisingly honest and touching account of a trans girl surviving through sex work in Seattle. With excerpts published in Eisner nominated anthology ISLAND, the full colour volume, drawn and painted by Remy Boydell is an unflinching debut graphic novel. Written by Michelle Perez


Book cover of My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness

Mady G. Why did I love this book?

An inside look at lesbian culture and coming out as queer in Japan. A semi-autobiographical comic about a young lesbian discovering herself and the boundaries of her attraction all while juggling her own stressful life and self-image in a pressure-filled society. A tour-de-force in the autobio genre with a uniquely charming loose art style. A manga that will probably remain a queer classic for years to come.

(Deals with themes of sex.)

By Nagata Kabi,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness is an honest and heartfelt look at one young woman's exploration of her sexuality, mental well-being, and growing up in our modern age. Told using expressive artwork that invokes both laughter and tears, this moving and highly entertaining single volume depicts not only the artist's burgeoning sexuality, but many other personal aspects of her life that will resonate with readers.


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A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

By Janet Hulstrand,

Book cover of A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

Janet Hulstrand Author Of A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Reader Editor Francophile Minnesotan Once and forever Brooklynite

Janet's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

This memoir chronicles the lives of three generations of women with a passion for reading, writing, and travel. The story begins in 1992 in an unfinished attic in Brooklyn as the author reads a notebook written by her grandmother nearly 100 years earlier. This sets her on a 30-year search to find her grandmother’s journals and uncover the hidden interior lives of her mother and grandmother.

Her adventures take her to a variety of locations, from a small town in Iowa to New York, Washington, London, and Paris—and finally to a little village in France, where she is finally able to write the book that will tell her own story, intertwined with the stories of her mother and grandmother.

A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

By Janet Hulstrand,

What is this book about?

This story, about three generations of women with a passion for reading, writing, and travel, begins in 1992, in an unfinished attic in Brooklyn, as a young writer reads journals written by her grandmother as a schoolgirl nearly 100 years earlier. This sets her on a 30-year quest to uncover the hidden lives and unfulfilled dreams of her mother and grandmother. In this coming-of-middle-age memoir, the author comes to realize that the passion for travel and for literature that has fueled her life's journey is a gift that was passed down to her by the very role models she was…


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