For this month’s review, Banter looked at the graphic memoir—a very popular take on traditional stories of self-discovery. The following two endearing memoirs are perfect for teaching acceptance and encouraging readers to rock the difference that make us unique.

El Deafo

By: Cece Bell

Grades 5-8

Cece Bell is a regular kid (although, to be clear, all of the characters in this book are portrayed as adorable cartoon bunnies) until an illness causes her to lose her hearing. Fitted with El Deafo - Cece Bella new Phonic Ear, a huge backpack-sized hearing aid, Cece experiences all of the normal trials and tribulations of childhood—moving schools, making and losing friends, first crushes, all while looking different from everyone else.

To cope, Cece creates a secret identity,—The Superhero named El Deafo! Equipped with a cape and “super hearing,” El Deafo can handle everything from bossy friends to strangers who try to sign with her.

Bell’s illustrations pack a punch—they are big, bright and colorful, just like El Deafo. Bell doesn’t just give us a great story about what it is like to grow up hearing impaired, she also shares what it is like for anyone to be shy or feel lost in the crowd; everyone has known (or was) a kid like Cece. Bell nails introvert-dialog right on the head. Several times throughout the book Cece has full conversations with people inside her head as “El Deafo,” while out loud she only mutters a few “ums” or “okays.” Awkward conversations are a hallmark of young adulthood so most students will feel her struggle.

Funny, poignant and charming—this visually enjoyable graphic memoir is the perfect page turner for a Holiday Break or a back-to-school read.


By: Liz Prince

Grades 9-12

Warning: This graphic memoir contains strong language and drug use that may not be appropriate for some students.

For any girl who has ever worn a t-shirt over her swimsuit, been mistaken for a boy, and/or stole her older brother’s clothes—this book is for you.

Tomboy is so cool. I want every girl and woman I know to read it. Filled with charm, wit and the cringe-worthy moments that only come from being an adolescent, Prince gives readers a simple and honest story about her struggle with gender roles and what it truly means to be a woman.

The reader is initially introduced to Liz Prince, a budding tomboy at the age of four, in the middle of a meltdown over having to wear a dress. She prefers to wear boy’s clothes Tomboy - A Graphic Memoir By Liz Prince(including an absolutely amazing blazer). She also plays with boys and prays that one day she will become a boy. This is the mind set of our heroine throughout elementary and high school. She takes us through making and losing friends, falling for boys and the constant bullying that comes from being a “tomboy.”

Present day Liz Prince, age 31, is our narrator throughout the story, a framing device that makes the reader feel like they are talking with a friend, not reading someone’s memoir. And this friend does not shy away from any topic. She experiments with drugs, feels pressured to have sex and “knows the benefit of a well-placed middle finger.” This book may scare parents, but it captures the realities of being a teenager so perfectly. I could not stop nodding my head in agreement.

The underlying theme throughout the book is the nature of how gender roles are stereotypically defined. Knowing nothing about Liz Prince before I read Tomboy, I assumed she was gay. This is the exact type of cliché Prince turns on its head as she copes, and still continues to cope, with the expectations society puts on women. In the end, Tomboy tells its readers that being a girl can mean whatever you want it to mean, an attitude that may be hard (but very important) for many adolescent girls to grasp.

Prince’s visual aesthetics and illustrations throughout the novel are a great introduction to the indie comic scene—perfect for that student who is looking for something a little different.