by Tahneer Oksman

About Tahneer Oksman

Tahneer Oksman is Associate Professor of Academic Writing at Marymount Manhattan College. She is the author of “How Come Boys Get to Keep Their Noses?”: Women and Jewish American Identity in Contemporary Graphic Memoirs and a co-editor of the anthology The Comics of Julie Doucet and Gabrielle Bell: A Place inside Yourself. She is the graphic novel editor for Women’s Review of Books.

Graphic Novel

In a now well-cited interview, Art Spiegelman, creator of the Pulitzer Prize–winning Maus, a two-volume memoir-in-comics recounting his parents’ experiences of living through the Holocaust, once famously explained that he had been interested in making a comic book that would require a bookmark (Juno and Spiegelman 1997). Sometimes referred to as the father of the graphic novel, Spiegelman has nonetheless admitted to a beleaguered acceptance of the increased circulation and popularity of a term that he, and other cartoonists, have often seen as troubling. “The Faustian deal is worth making: it keeps my book in print,” he admitted in a more recent interview (Mitchell and Spiegelman 2014, 24). Indeed, the history of the keyword graphic novel is a contentious one, as evidenced by the extent to which it has been variously claimed, defined, or disavowed—as everything from a medium, a genre, a marketing term, a movement, a format, and a form to a way of reading. These discrepancies point to misapprehensions and complexities surrounding the term as well as the ideological and historiographical implications of such categorizing and naming.