Bodies are beautiful and fascinating, but sometimes confusing and frustrating, am I right? When I was a teenager, I wasn’t given a lot of information or transparency about what to expect as I went through puberty. As a young adult dealing with birth control, miscarriage, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and postpartum, I struggled even more with feeling alone and unprepared for the questions and challenges that my body presented me with. Fortunately, I found friends and co-workers with personal stories to share; and as I searched for more stories and experiences, I found plenty in our library collection! The graphic novel format is a particularly creative and fitting format to set conversations about the female body and I love reading graphic novels that describe and present the female body in visual ways that are informative, vulnerable, and realistic, without being sexual or titillating. Here are some of my favorite graphic novels about the female body.
By Lily Williams
Sophomores Abby, Brit, Christine, and Sasha are fed up. Hazelton High never has enough tampons. Or pads. Or adults who will listen. Sick of an administration that puts football before female health, the girls confront a world that shrugs—or worse, squirms—at the thought of a menstruation revolution. They band together to make a change. It’s no easy task, especially while grappling with everything from crushes to trig to JV track but they have each other’s backs. That is, until one of the girls goes rogue, testing the limits of their friendship and pushing the friends to question the power of their own voices. Now they must learn to work together to raise each other up. But how do you stand your ground while raising bloody hell?
By Aminder Dhaliwal
When a birth defect wipes out the planet’s entire population of men, Woman World rises out of society’s ashes. Dhaliwal’s infectiously funny instagram comic follows the rebuilding process, tracking a group of women who have rallied together under the flag of “Beyonce’s Thighs.” Only Grandma remembers the distant past, a civilization of segway-riding mall cops, Blockbuster movie rental shops, and “That’s What She Said” jokes. For the most part, Woman World’s residents are focused on their struggles with unrequited love and anxiety, not to mention that whole “survival of humanity” thing.
By Lucy Knisley
If you work hard enough, if you want it enough, if you’re smart and talented and “good enough,” you can do anything. Except get pregnant. Her whole life, Lucy Knisley wanted to be a mother. But when it was finally the perfect time, conceiving turned out to be harder than anything she’d ever attempted. Fertility problems were followed by miscarriages, and her eventual successful pregnancy plagued by health issues, up to a dramatic, near-death experience during labor and delivery. This moving, hilarious, and surprisingly informative memoir not only follows Lucy’s personal transition into motherhood but also illustrates the history and science of reproductive health from all angles, including curious facts and inspiring (and notorious) figures in medicine and midwifery.
By MK Czerwiec
A collection of comics presenting diverse views of menopause. Contributors address a range of life experiences, ages, gender identities, ethnicities, and health conditions.
By Liv Strömquist
From Adam and Eve to pussy hats, people have punished, praised, pathologized, and politicized vulvas, vaginas, clitorises, and menstruation. In this graphic nonfiction book, Swedish cartoonist Liv Strömquist traces how different cultures and traditions have shaped women’s health and beyond. Her biting, informed commentary and ponytailed avatar guides the reader from the darkest chapters of history (a clitoridectomy performed on a five-year-old American child as late as 1948) to the lightest (vulvas used as architectural details as a symbol of protection). Like humorists Julie Doucet (Dirty Plotte), Alison Bechdel (Dykes to Watch Out For), and Kate Beaton (Hark! A Vagrant), she uses the comics medium to reveal uncomfortable truths about how far we haven’t come.
By A. K. Summers
The author explores, in graphic novel memoir format, her adventures of being a butch/dyke and becoming pregnant, while dealing with the stereotypes and judgment of those around her.