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The world of comics has grown dramatically from the likes of Archie and Superman to a wide-ranging selection written by and about people from all walks of life. Here are some of our favorite comics that address issues of identity with main characters that span boundaries of race, gender, sexuality, and religion.

Aya

Abouet, Marguerite, 1971-

Offers the first three volumes of the fictional graphic memoir of nineteen-year-old Aya, her easy-going friends Adjoua and Bintou, and their meddling neighbors and relatives, all caught up in the simple pleasures of everyday life in Yop City.

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Fire!! The Zora Neale Hurston Story

Bagge, Peter

Peter Bagge has defied the expectations of the comics industry by changing gears from his famous slacker hero Buddy Bradley to documenting the life and times of historical 20th century trailblazers. If Bagge had not already had a New York Times bestseller with his biography of Margaret Sanger, his newest biography, Fire!!: The Zora Neale Hurston Story, would seem to be an unfathomable pairing of author and subject. Yet through Bagge's skilled cartooning, he turns what could be a rote biography into a bold and dazzling graphic novel, creating a story as brilliant as the life itself. Hurston challenged the norms of what was expected of an African American woman in early 20th century society. The fifth of eight kids from a Baptist family in Alabama, Hurston's writing prowess blossomed at Howard University, and then Barnard College, where she was the sole black student. She arrived in NYC at the height of the Harlem Renaissance and quickly found herself surrounded by peers such as Langston Hughes and Wallace Thurman. Hurston went on to become a noted folklorist and critically acclaimed novelist, including her most provocative work Their Eyes Were Watching God. Despite these landmark achievements, personal tragedies and shifting political winds in the midcentury rendered her almost forgotten by the end of her life. With admiration and respect, Bagge reconstructs her vivid life in resounding full-color.

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Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

Bechdel, Alison, 1960-

A memoir done in the form of a graphic novel by a cult favorite comic artist offers a darkly funny family portrait that details her relationship with her father--a funeral home director, high school English teacher, and closeted homosexual.

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Dykes to Watch Out For

Bechdel, Alison, 1960-

Brings together a new collection of cartoons recounting the lives and loves of a diverse group of lesbian friends.

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Wet Moon

Campbell, Ross, 1979-

An unusually usual day-to-day story in the Deep South, set in the gothic, swampy southern town of Wet Moon, a place fraught with lousy love lives, teen angst, and shadowy rednecks. As Cleo Lovedrop heads off for college at the local art school, she's haunted by her melancholic past: a lost love, a lost child. Friends and enemies live their lives around her, as trouble and dissent brews amongst them: an unseen social assailant spreads slander about Cleo, she is forced to deal with her two brusque roommates, and she discovers unsolved mysteries about the girl who lived in her room previously. Elsewhere, Trilby deals with unsettled emotional and sexual issues and keeps her secret habits hidden from everyone. And Audrey comes to the realization that, despite all her efforts, she always causes her friends distress, while Fern, a peculiar, deformed girl who lives in an isolated mansion in the bayous, begins to notice Cleo and her friends. As the moon grows full and lunar rays shine down, lunacy and moon-calves run free. Goths, friendship, romance, sex, betrayal, gossip, cats, murder, guilt, a squirrel monkey, and all the terrible and wonderful things people do to each other.

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Black Panther : A Nation Under Our Feet

Coates, Ta-Nehisi

Written by MacArthur Genius and National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates (“Between the World and Me”) and illustrated by living legend Brian Stelfreeze, “A Nation Under Our Feet” is a story about dramatic upheaval in Wakanda and the Black Panther's struggle to do right by his people as their ruler. The indomitable will of Wakanda--the famed African nation known for its vast wealth, advanced technology, and warrior traditions--has long been reflected in the will of its monarchs, the Black Panthers. But now the current Black Panther, T'Challa, finds that will tested by a superhuman terrorist group called the People that has sparked a violent uprising among the citizens of Wakanda. T'Challa knows the country must change to survive--the question is, will the Black Panther survive the change?

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Calling Dr. Laura

Georges, Nicole J.

After discovering that who she thought was her father was indeed not, Portland-based "zinester" Nicole Georges embarks upon a journey of identity.

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As the Crow Flies

Gillman, Melanie, author, artist.

When thirteen year-old lesbian African American Charlie questions her belief in God, she spends a week at an all-white Christian youth camp for some soul searching.

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Maggie the Mechanic

Hernandez, Jaime

Collects the first five years of Locas stories, about Maggie and Hopey and the ups and downs of their lives and relationships.

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Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation

Howard, Sheena C. (EDT)/ Jackson, Ronald L., II (EDT)

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Encyclopedia of Black Comics

Howard, Sheena C. author.

The Encyclopedia of Black Comics, focuses on people of African descent who have published significant works in the United States or have worked across various aspects of the comics industry. The book focuses on creators in the field of comics: inkers, illustrators, artists, writers, editors, Black comic historians, Black comic convention creators, website creators, archivists and academics--as well as individuals who may not fit into any category but have made notable achievements within and/or across Black comic culture

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Black Lightning

Isabella, Tony author, creator.

Black Lightning's first solo series and origin story! With the power to generate electricity from within, Jefferson Pierce has donned a colorful costume and the secret identity of Black Lightning! However, it will take all of his abilities to protect his Metropolis neighborhood of Suicide Slum from those who seek to destroy it. With guest appearances by Superman and some familiar villains, Black Lightning makes DC Comics history. Collecting for the first time Black Lightning #1-11 and World's Finest Comics #260, featuring work by creators Tony Isabella and Trevor Von Eeden, along with veteran inkers Frank Springer and Vince Colletta!

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We Are On Our Own

Katin, Miriam

A full-length illustrated graphic memoir about the author and her mother's escape on foot from the Nazi invasion of Budapest recounts how they faked their deaths, abandoned their belongings and loved ones, and fled in disguise with German troops close behind.

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March

Lewis, John, 1940 February 21-

A first-hand account of the author's lifelong struggle for civil and human rights spans his youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., and the birth of the Nashville Student Movement.

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Hardware : the Man in the Machine

McDuffie, Dwayne

Inventor/engineer Curt Metcalf breaks free of his employer, businessman Edwin Alva, who refused to share the profits from Metcalf's many creations. Discovering that Alva is tied to organized crime, and learning that no law enforcement agency would touch him, Metcalf creats the high tech Hardware armor that enabled him to work against Alva.

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Exit Wounds

Modan, Rutu

A young man unravels the mysteries of his father's death and entire identity after learning he may have been a victim of a suicide bombing, in a graphic novel set in modern Israel.

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Barefoot Gen

Nakazawa, Keiji

In this graphic depiction of nuclear devastation, three survivors of the bombing of Hiroshima--Gen, his mother, and his baby sister--face rejection, hunger, and humiliation in their search for a place to live.

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Pretty in Ink: North American Women Cartoonists 1896-2013

Robbins, Trina

A revised, updated and rewritten history of women cartoonists, with more color illustrations than ever before, and with some startling new discoveries (such as a Native American woman cartoonist from the 1940s who was also a Corporal in the women's army, and the revelation that a cartoonist included in all of Robbins's previous histories was a man!) In the pages of Pretty in Ink you'll find new photos and correspondence from cartoonists Ethel Hays and Edwina Dumm, and the true story of Golden Age comic book star Lily Renee, as intriguing as the comics she drew. Although the comics profession was dominated by men, there were far more women working in the profession throughout the 20th century than other histories indicate, and they have flourished in the 21st. Robbins not only documents the increasing relevance of women throughout the 20th century, with mainstream creators such as Ramona Fradon and Dale Messick and alternative cartoonists such as Lynda Barry, Carol Tyler, and Phoebe Gloeckner, but the latest generation of women cartoonists-Megan Kelso, Cathy Malkasian, Linda Medley, and Lilli Carre, among many others.

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Persepolis

Satrapi, Marjane, 1969-

Collects a two-part graphic memoir, in which the great-granddaughter of Iran's last emperor and the daughter of ardent Marxists describes growing up in Tehran, a country plagued by political upheaval and vast contradictions between public and private life.

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(H)afrocentric

Smith, Juliana,

This unflinching visual and literary tour-de-force tackles the most pressing issues of the day--including racism, patriarchy, gentrification, police violence, and the housing crisis--with humor and biting satire. When gentrification strikes the neighborhood surrounding Ronald Reagan University, Naima Pepper recruits a group of disgruntled undergrads of color to launch the first and only anti-gentrification social networking site, mydiaspora.com. The motley crew is poised to fight back against expensive avocado toast, muted Prius cars, exorbitant rent, and cultural appropriation. Whether Naima and the gang are transforming social media, leading protests, fighting rent hikes, or working as "Racial Translators," the students at Ronald Reagan University combine their technically savvy and Black Millennial sensibilities with their individual backgrounds, goals, and aspirations.

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Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow

Sturm, James, 1965-

Satchel Paige began his baseball career in the Negro Leagues in Alabama in the 1920s. For years, Jim Crow laws, which segregated blacks and whites, kept him out of the major leagues. But they couldn't stop him from becoming a world-class athlete. This is a fictionalized account of a real-life sports hero.

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Pregnant Butch

Summers, A. K.

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.

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Skim

Tamaki, Mariko

Presents the whole gamut of tortured teen life--friends, love, depression, suicide, and cliques--through the eyes of Skim, a.k.a. Kimberly Keiko Cameron, a would-be Wiccan goth at a girls' academy in Toronto during the 1990s.

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Push Man

Tatsumi, Yoshihiro, 1935-2015

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Black Women in Sequence: Re-inking Comics, Graphic Novels & Anime

Whaley, Deborah Elizabeth

Black Women in Sequence takes readers on a search for women of African descent in comics subculture. From the 1971 appearance of the Skywald Publications character "the Butterfly"--The first Black female superheroine in a comic book--to contemporary comic books, graphic novels, film, manga, and video gaming, a growing number of Black women are becoming producers, viewers, and subjects of sequential art. As the first detailed investigation of Black women's participation in comic art, Black Women in Sequence examines the representation, production, and transnational circulation of women of African descent in the sequential art world. In this groundbreaking study, which includes interviews with artists and writers, Deborah Whaley suggests that the treatment of the Black female subject in sequential art says much about the place of people of African descent in national ideology in the United States and abroad.

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Ms. Marvel : No Normal

Wilson, G. Willow, 1982-

Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City -- until she's suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm! When Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she unlocks a secret behind them, as well. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense new gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her be too much to bear? Kamala has no idea, either. But she's comin' for you, New York!

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