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The need to belong

Cover of Belonging in YA (Teen) Gra
Belonging in YA (Teen) Graphic Novels

Belonging is a common theme in many young adult stories. Graphic novels provide an excellent visual of capturing the experiences and emotions as characters grow and find themselves. It’s as if we’re dropping in or hovering over a character’s shoulder to see a slice of  their life. Here are three insightful and at times, humorous graphic novels to check out:

I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir by Malaka Gharib
Malaka is Egyptian Filipino and she tells her story of balancing and switching between her families’ customs all the while trying to adapt to what it means to be American. Her stories range from childhood memories to going to college and being in the workforce to getting married. She portrays differences in families, religions and cultures through charts, maps, infographics and even a microaggressions bingo card. I found her experiences relatable and enjoyed her sarcasm and sense of humor.

Himawari House by Harmony Becker
Nao is returning to Japan to spend a gap year brushing up on her language skills. She stays in a sharehouse with new roommates: Hyejung, who is Korean; Tina, who is Singaporean; and two Japanese brothers, Shinichi and Masaki. Readers will learn about the backstories of the three young women and how they bond through language and shared experiences. I really like the black and white manga art style and the author’s way of portraying language as blurs when there’s limited understanding and the use of accents. This has a bittersweet ending but is so full of heart that it will leave you wanting more.

Huda F Are You? by Huda Famy
Huda and her family have moved to Dearborn, MI, where there’s an established Muslim community. Huda is relieved to no longer be the only girl wearing a hijab in school but as a freshman, she wants to find where she belongs. She tries different identities with little results but always delivers wry, self-deprecating observations. This is a semi-autobiographical graphic novel with an expressive cartoony style.

May 18, 2022