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A Reading List For The Social Distancing Era, From Cartoonist Raina Telgemeier

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

We're asking writers to share what they're reading right now. Raina Telgemeier is a cartoonist whose graphic novels like "Smile" and "Sisters" have been New York Times bestsellers. She says the coronavirus pandemic hasn't really changed her work habits - she's used to working from home with her two cats - nor has the pandemic changed her reading habits.

RAINA TELGEMEIER: My work has always dealt with anxiety and sort of the inner condition of the mind, so I've always been drawn to realistic fiction and to memoir and to people's kind of daily lives. I read a lot of web comics - like, I have been loving reading comics by Julia Kaye. Her Instagram handle is upandoutcomic. She is a trans cartoonist who's been writing about the process of transitioning. And her more recent comics are about having transitioned and just, you know, what comes next? And it's fascinating. And so she's been posting short comics to Instagram for a long time. It's really easy to follow her there.

I think that's actually what I'm gravitating to right now - is just regular stories about regular people and the regular relationships they have with their regular families. So I'm going to suggest a few graphic novels that I've read recently that really capture this. One of them is "Hot Comb" by Ebony Flowers, which is all about black hair. And it's not just about the hair, but it's about the relationships that develop when, you know, women and girls sit down in a beauty shop to put in braids or to take them out. And there's just an immediacy to "Hot Comb" that I absolutely loved.

I also just read "Almost American Girl" by Robin Ha, which is her true story about what it felt like to move from Seoul, Korea, to Alabama in the '90s. It's kind of both a really difficult read because it's so, so hard to see Robin struggle with the culture clash and with feeling isolated, but then it's wonderful to see her find her people.

And, you know, I think that's one of the cool things about personal comics and memoir is you really get to see what people's lives look like, and you get to see both the commonalities and the ways that you aren't the same in a way that feels like you were there. And because my readers love them or they love reading my memoirs, it's lovely to be able to hand them more books by other creators and say, here; if you liked "Smile," if you liked "Guts," if you liked "Sisters," read "Almost American Girl" or read "Hot Comb." You'll like them, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF MARK REDITO'S "SO MANY THINGS TO TELL YOU")

CHANG: That was Raina Telgemeier. Her most recent book is the graphic memoir "Guts."

(SOUNDBITE OF MARK REDITO'S "SO MANY THINGS TO TELL YOU") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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