The best graphic novels that use environment as storyteller

Priya Huq Author Of Piece by Piece: The Story of Nisrin's Hijab
By Priya Huq

Who am I?

Environmental storytelling in comics is something that I’ve always admired and want to be better at. As a cartoonist I’m always thinking of better ways to tell visual stories, because it’s fun.


I wrote...

Piece by Piece: The Story of Nisrin's Hijab

By Priya Huq,

Book cover of Piece by Piece: The Story of Nisrin's Hijab

What is my book about?

When Nisrin Moniruzzaman and her friend Firuzeh are attacked for wearing shalwar kameez in public, Nisrin decides she wants to wear hijab. Her Bangladeshi family is upset and confused… why does she want to make things harder for herself? Nisrin handles freshman year at a new school and both new and old relationships while dealing with her own trauma… as well as her family’s.

The books I picked & why

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The Legend of Auntie Po

By Shing Yin Khor,

Book cover of The Legend of Auntie Po

Why this book?

Shing Yin Khor is one of my all-time favorite artists and creators. They have several works out and you should read all of them. The Legend of Auntie Po is a graphic novel about historical racism and trauma that focuses on the perspectives of the people affected by these issues, and the humanity we all share.


Artie and the Wolf Moon

By Olivia Stephens,

Book cover of Artie and the Wolf Moon

Why this book?

Olivia Stephens is one of the most skilled cartoonists of our generation. I was lucky enough to blurb Artie: Artie and the Wolf Moon, like all of Stephens’ work, is heartbreaking and heart-mending, gorgeously and lovingly rendered with a voice and eye for the gentle and powerful ways characters interact with one another…“ Like the best graphic novels set in the Pacific Northwest, Artie’s story could not be told without dense forests that hold both danger and sanctuary.


Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms

By Fumiyo Kouno,

Book cover of Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms

Why this book?

I first heard of Kouno’s work through the animated adaptation of In This Corner of the World. Town of Evening Calm and Country of Cherry Blossoms are a short story and short series (respectively) about Hiroshima. Like many other shojo/josei artists, Kouno uses the natural world to impart tone and mood, but is particularly good at it.


Ghost World

By Daniel Clowes,

Book cover of Ghost World

Why this book?

I don’t think I like Ghost World, but it belongs on this list. When I think of Clowes’ work I think of caricature, but the environments in Ghost World pull most of the storytelling weight. You can hear the hum of the fluorescents in the grocery store and the wind between buildings on an empty street.


Mushishi 1

By Yuki Urushibara,

Book cover of Mushishi 1

Why this book?

Mushishi is possibly my favorite comic of all time. It doesn’t just use the environment as storyteller, but tells stories about environments in a way you wouldn’t expect. Though it’s a series of stories about people and their relationships, neither are divorced from the world itself. I cannot recommend this series enough and it is a huge influence on my own work.


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