Bitch in a Box: Holiday Gift Guide, Graphic Novels Edition

Whether you're shopping for a long-time comics reader or someone who's new to the world of graphic novels (maybe you're just looking for a good page turner for yourself, we won't tell), here are some quality 2012 releases of the graphic persuasion.


cover of Aya: Love in the City, which features three young women (Aya and two others) peering from behind a postAya Collection (Drawn & Quarterly)
Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie

The Aya series, which follows the every day life of a middle-class community living in 1970s Ivory Coast, first reached English readers in 2008. Now you can have the six-part collection all in two volumes: Drawn & Quarterly just released Aya: Love in Yop City, which collects the final three chapters of the series in one book. Like the first volume, Aya: Life in Yop City, you'll not only be treated to the story of 19-year-old Aya as she navigates romance, family, and her future, Abouet includes recipes, cultural context, and appendices that bring the world of Yop City into even richer detail. [Drawn & Quarterly]

Recommended for: Fans of the Hernandez brothers (the microcosm of Yop City will remind you of Palomar); Francophiles.
Pair with: 
Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi's seminal graphic novel and the main influence on Abouet to start writing comics.




Cover of Spit and Passion, which features a self-portrait of Cristy Road as a teenager, grungy, awkward, and clutching a Rolling Stone magazine featuring Green Day.Spit and Passion (Feminist Press)
Cristy C. Road 

You probably recognize Cristy Road's signature illustrations from various zines, records, and publications like INCITE! and Microcosm. Or maybe you read Devyn Manibo's rad conversation with the artist this summer. Road's latest offering is Spit and Passion, an autobiographic account of her adolescent voyage through Cuban-American queer identity—as she puts it, "a tale on transforming the closet into a sanctuary by way of self-acceptance and my love for Green Day." Oooh and it's on sale at Feminist Press RIGHT NOW!

Recommended for: Folks who will never threw out their punk tapes and patches; fans of Sister Spit.
Pair with:
Mix CD of guilty (and not-so-guilty) pleasures from high school; Distance Makes the Heart Grow Sick—Road's collection of postcards available at her online store.




The cover of Are You My Mother, a close-up of a makeup trousseau with makeup and jewelry spread over a red counter.Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama (Houghton Mifflin)
Alison Bechdel

The latest tome from living-comics legend Alison Bechdel has gotten a lot of well-deserved props from mainstream media—Time called it the #1 book of the year. Weaving memoir, history, dreams, and psychology theory like you've never read it before, you'll get lost in this spiraling account of Bechdel's relationship with her mother. [Powell's]

Recommended for: People who "didn't think they would like a book of cartoons!"; lit crit dorks; mothers, daughters, thinkers.
Pair With: Fun Home, Bechdel's graphic novel about her father; The Portable Jung.






The bright, cartoony cover of No Straight Lines, featuring an ensemble of queer characters from comics.

No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics (Fantagraphics)
Various, edited by Justin Hall 

Thirty-five bucks is a steal for this collection of dozens of queer comics artists throughout the past several decades. Neither definitive nor canonical, it's still an amazing collection ranging from the margins to the mainstream. It's a historcal ode to the vibrant underground (of the underground) comics scene and testament to where queer comics are todayoh, and it will make you laugh, weep, and tell all your friends about it, like any good comic book. Get lost in discovering new artists and revisiting your favorites. [Fantagraphics]

Recommended for: People who think "alternative comics" and think Robert Crumb; a coffee table in need of some literary love.
Pair with: Gay Genius (available at Bitchmart!), a contemporary collection of queer comics artists that picks up where No Straight Lines ends; donation to Big Feminist But Kickstarter.




A picture of the Oregon History Comics Collection: a small boxset with ten colorful minicomics inside. Next to it is the mini comic on the Portland Black Panther Party, featuring the iconic black fist on an orange background

Oregon History Comics (Dill Pickle Club)
Various, edited by Sarah Mirk 

History? BORING. Not so fasteven folks who don't live in Oregon will love digging into Oregon History Comics, a series of ten minicomics exploring the state's radical and under-recorded history. Travel back in time to the Katrina-esque Vanport Flood or the women's suffrage movement; and revisit more recent history like the local Black Panther chapter and the X-Ray Cafe. Edited by Sarah Mirk, each comic has a different illustrator and they're collected in a smart gift box that looks great on any shelf. Each comic is also available for individual purchase, for an intelligent and accessible stocking stuffer. [Dill Pickle Club]

Recommended for:
Obscure-history buffs; the Occupy activist on your list.
Pair with: Membership to local historical society; subscription to Symbolia, forthcoming tablet magazine of illustrated journalism. 




The cover of Flannery O'Connor's cartoon book, featuring one of her linocuts of some straggly, forlorn looking characters sitting on a couch.

Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons (Fantagraphics)
Edited by Kelly Gerald

You probably know that Flannery O'Connor is one of America's signature storytellers. Her short stories have informed the craft of writing for decades. But did you know she raised peacocks? Oh, you did. DID YOU KNOW SHE MADE COMICS? Working with pen and linoleum cuts, her one-panel comics echo the brevity and subtle humor of her stories. And just like her fiction, they're relevant today. [Fantagraphics]

Recommended for: The literary reader who has everything; people who think New Yorker cartoons are hilarious.
Pair with: Lilli Carré's Heads or Tails, the latest from a Chicago comics artist whose stories and art are reminiscnet of the Southern Gothic tradition; Mystery and Manners, O'Connor's book on writing. 




A picture of the Jackie Ormes illustration that graces the mugs at Bitchmart. Jackie Ormes, a young African American woman during the 40s, is portrayed on a turquoise background, her name on a banner beneath.

And for the comics lover who has everything ...

At Bitchmart you can grab your very own JACKIE ORMES illustrated mug, as part of our Adventures in Feministory "Groundbreakers" series. Jackie Ormes is the creator of Torchy Brown and Patty Jo 'n' Ginger, and was the first African American woman to be a syndicated cartoonist. Get yours today then curl up with Jackie Ormes: The First African American Cartoonist.


Previously: Holiday Gift Guide, Fashion Forward Edition!

by Kjerstin Johnson
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Kjerstin Johnson is a writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. She is the former editor in chief of Bitch. She tweets at @kajerstin

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3 Comments Have Been Posted


I was surprised not to see Persepolis on this list... maybe because it was published years ago? Any Marjane Strapi book is good. next time?


I did limit my main recommendations to graphic novels released in 2012, otherwise I would be totally overwhelmed with all the great books out there! And I actually did include <em>Persepolis</em> as a "pair with" option with the <em>Aya</em> series. It's at the beginning of the post.

What a wonderful collection

What a wonderful collection of eclectic titles. I have a few friends who would love some of these. Actually I have been wanting to read Are You My Mother for years and seeing it today makes me think I should pick it up just because. Please drop by Venus Blogs when you have time as we post about similar issues. Say hi when you do!

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