Graphic Novels Are Books, Too!

A few weeks ago, I told a few teenagers, who had expressed disinterest in reading, that graphic novels are books, too.   I mean, you have to read them to understand the story, though not in the same way that you would traditionally think about reading.  Part of the experience of reading isn’t just reading the words.  Sure, words are important.  Bad writing can lead to disinterest and frustration; and beautiful writing can elevate the reading experience.  However, there is a something else going on as you process the words on the page – you’re discovering the narrative, analyzing character motivations, and becoming emotionally involved.

Image of a young woman reading a book on a chair. Text: Book hangover: Inability to start a new book because you're still living in the last book's worldGraphic novels have fewer words, but the words they do have  – often in the form of thought and speech bubbles – are important in developing the story and giving insight into the characters.   The artwork, including decisions on how to organize and frame the panels, informs mood and emotions that must be interpreted through a different sort of process – a visual one that “reads” the images.

In the past 10 years, I’ve seen an explosion in the popularity, variety, and availability of graphic novels in the US.  Rather than a genre, it has become more of a format and a more widely acceptable one at that.  Graphic novels used to take up about half a shelf in bookstores and in public libraries; now there are multiple bookcases worth in these places.  Graphic novels have helped reluctant readers to more positively engage with reading and develop literacy skills.  They have also become a teaching tool in the classroom.

Shelves of graphic novels

Photo by Morebyless (CC BY 2.0)

Here are some graphic novels available at Wheelock:

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang ; color by Lark Pien. Three stories about the problems of young Chinese Americans.

A + E 4ever : A Graphic Novel by I. Merey. Coming of age story about two lonely gender non-conforming teens who meet and form a friendship.

Monster by Walter Dean Myers.  A story of a teenage boy on trial for his supposed role as lookout in a murder.

Rapunzel’s revenge by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale ; illustrated by Nathan Hale.  In this Old West retelling, Rapunzel saves herself and gets of out sticky situations using her hair as a lasso.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson.  Story of a young girl who signs up for roller derby camp and is struggling with spending the summer apart from her best friend.

Images of 5 book covers. From L to R: 1. a boy and girl sleeping facing each other 2. a lone young black teenager 3. a chinese boy with a robot 4. A boy and a girl with very long hair 5. A girl with blue hair on skates

Looking for more?  A fan of English-translated Japanese graphic novels like I am?  The Wheelock community has access to the Boston Public Library and its many branches and to the Brookline Public Library.  Just bring in your Wheelock ID and they will hook you up.  I recommend Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama for those interested in bleak yet compelling post-apocalyptic stories and Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya for lighter fare.
Cover of the first volume of Fruits Basket. Cover features a high school girl with long brown hair surrounding by orbs containing the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac

For those interested in how graphic novels work in the classroom, check out our blog post from 4 years ago and the below books:

An cover image inspired by Superman; a man peeling open his white shirt to reveal the words, "The Graphic Novel Classroom".

The Graphic Novel Classroom POWerful Teaching and Learning with Images. Available online at Wheelock.

Image of a teacher standing in front of a blackboard pointing a stick to the dialogue box: Class, Please Open your Comics

Class, Please Open Your Comics : Essays on Teaching with Graphic Narratives / Edited by Matthew L. Miller. Available online at Wheelock

What is ILL.svg

What is an ILL?

ILL is a term that we use a lot here in access services and it means interlibrary loan, which refers to an item that you borrow from a library other than Wheelock College Library through our increasingly popular ILL service.What is ILL.svg

Through several partnerships, Wheelock College Library is able to offer you access to books, articles, media, and more from nearby libraries like Simmons College Library and from far away libraries in places like California or Alaska.  The best part is the library generally does not charge you for these loans, so we can literally and affordably provide you access to resources from anywhere in the United States.

To make use of our ILL service, you can use our online catalog to see if a book you need is available in FLO.  If it is, you can follow these steps to place the request yourself.

If the book you need is not in FLO or if what you need is an article, then you can use our ILL request forms.  We have one for books and one for articles.  Once you submit your request, a library staff member will find a library somewhere in the country that owns the item and is willing to lend it or scan it.

Physical ILL items generally arrive in 3-5 business days depending on where the library sending the item is located and you will get an email when they arrive directing you to the 1st floor service desk to retrieve the item.  Scans can arrive as early as 24 hours and are directly delivered to your Wheelock College email.  We always recommend placing requests early in case they take longer than usual.

So, the next time you need an item to complete your research or even if you are looking to get your hands on a good summer read, remember you have access to library resources that extend beyond Wheelock’s campus and even beyond Massachusetts!

Have you used our ILL service before?  Share your experience in the comments below.

A screencapture of the Wheelock at Worcester Research Guide from the Wheelock College Library.

Welcome, Wheelock@Worcester MSW students!

I want to extend a warm welcome to our newest cohort of Advanced Standing MSW students in the Wheelock@Worcester program!  The Wheelock College Library is here for you as you begin your studies with intensive summer classes.

To learn about what we can offer you, take a look at the library guide we created.

A screencapture of the Wheelock at Worcester Research Guide from the Wheelock College Library.

Throughout your program, you will need to conduct research for your papers and projects.  Whether you are writing a policy analysis, a literature review, or a treatment plan, you will need to find outside sources of information.  The library is here to help you access the information you need!

Get in touch with us early to find out how we can help you with a specific assignment.  You can call us (617-879-2222), email us (, or chat with us by using the yellow box on the library home page.  This kind of on-demand help is available every day that the library is open, from noon until closing!

You can also set up an appointment to meet with me, Maric Kramer, over phone or Skype.  In these one-on-one appointments, we’ll first talk about your assignment and your goals, and then we will work together to find the information you’ll need to:

  • inform yourself and others,
  • advocate for clients and communities, and
  • support evidence-based practice.

The Wheelock College Library has the people and resources you need to succeed in your MSW program.  So get in touch with us!  We look forward to hearing from you.


Starring Asian Americans!


Fresh Off the Boat was renewed for a 3rd season.  The Mindy Project was renewed for a 5thMasterMaster of None tv series poster of None was renewed for a 2nd season.   So were Dr.Ken and Quantico.   This is all in the same year!  Why is this a big deal?  Almost all of them are shows created by and starring Asian characters (who do not look anywhere close to white) and they’re being renewed – meaning there are enough “mainstream” audience members tuning in.  Asians/Asian Americans represent 5.6% of the US population but representation is disproportionately low in TV and films.  And when you consider that their stories often take place in cities where there should be a large Asian/Asian American population, yet the few Asians depicted are in hospital settings and Chinatowns.  There is not just a dearth of Asian representation, but also a dearth in the variety of roles Asians can play.

Until these past few years, starring roles for Asians/Asian Americans have been mostly nonexistent, especially starring roles where they’re central characters who do not have to play second fiddle to the white co-lead.  The claim has always been that there just isn’t enough of an audience for Asian leads.  Family sitcoms are huge on broadcast network television, yet the last network sitcom to star an Asian American family was in 1994 until Fresh Off the Boat was created in 2015.  During that time, the number of Asians/Asian Americans in the US has doubled.

Asian roles have mainly been limited to stereotypes and roles and stories that everyone is comfortable with seeing Asians perform (so ix-nay on having an Asian in the role of male romantic lead in a heterosexual relationship).  Furthermore, due to whitewashing, leading Asian characters that should have gone to Asian/Asian-American actors are often reimagined as white characters (see 21) or are played by white actors (see Aloha).  While Asian countries have their own TV and movie industries and some Asians/Asian Americans consume their content, it does not feel right that we have to “go back to where we came from” and sometimes have to leap over a cultural divide to find Asians as nuanced, central characters.

Meet Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi in the upcoming US adaptation of the Japanese manga/anime, Ghost in a Shell. I have so many questions...

Meet Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi in the upcoming US adaptation of the Japanese manga/anime, Ghost in a Shell. I have so many questions…

In celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, here are some interesting blog articles and movie recommendations related to this topic:

Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle:  A subversive, stoner comedy featuring two Asian male leads getting into shenanigans like getting high and taking a pointless road trip which ends up being a metaphor for self-discovery.  Here is a trailer.  You can borrow this from the Boston Public Library.

Indian Accents Brown Voice and Racial Performance in American Television and Film  Borrow the book from the Wheelock College Library.

Master of None, episode 4 “Indians on TV”.    This episode tackles issues of diversity in Hollywood.  Here are two scenes from that episode. You can watch this episode if you have access to Netflix.

Of 800 main cast members on 100 network TV shows, just 52 (6%) are of Asian descent

Slaying the Dragon by Deborah Gee: a documentary about the portrayal of Asian American women in film. While the documentary is old, it lays out the history of Asian stereotypes in media. Borrow the DVD from the Wheelock College Library.

#StarringJohnCho:  Click on the hashtag to view popular movie posters photoshopped with John Cho as the male lead.  Those who feel John Cho is out of place in these posters will have glimpsed a little into how minorities feel about whitewashing and those who don’t feel he is out of place won’t be deterred from movies featuring an Asian male lead.

This is a Jar Full of Major Characters.  Beautiful, easy-to-understand explanation about whitewashing and the difference between racebending a character from POC to white and racebending a character from white to a POC.

Poet-Tree Full

Poetry from the Wheelock Poet-Tree

In April the library started a Poet-Tree to celebrate National Poetry Month. The Wheelock community made blackout poems on leaves cut from old discarded books, and then added those leaves to the Poet-Tree. The tree proved so popular, that we ended up leaving it up through the end of the semester. Just look at how much the tree grew over time!

April 1st, 2016


May 13th, 2016Poet-Tree Full

If you didn’t get a chance to see the tree in person, we’ve got you covered. We documented each unique and creative poem so everyone can read them again and again. Just scroll through below for a closer look!

If you missed out on participating in the Poet-Tree this year, keep an eye our for its return next April 2017!