2022 VLA Graphic Novel Diversity Award Winners Announced 

The GNDA celebrates diversity captured within the pages of graphic novels. In 2022 – our eighth year offering the award – 35 publishers submitted 71 titles in two categories: Adult and Youth. The Committee is proud to announce the winners and honor books selected for the 2022 award. 

The winners of each title will receive a $500 award and will be recognized during the Scholarship and Awards Banquet at the 2023 VLA/VLACRL Annual Conference. The banquet will be held from 6:00-8:00pm, Sunday, October 22, 2023. This year's conference is at the Westfields Marriott Washington Dulles, Chantilly, Va. More information about the conference including registration and banquet tickets can be found at vla.org.

Winners          Honor Books          Overfloweth


Winner: Adult

I'm a Terminal Cancer Patient, But I'm Fine. by Hilnama; art by Hilnama. Published by Seven Seas Entertainment.

Themes: Disability

I’m a Terminal Cancer Patient, But I’m Fine. by Hilnama is an autobiographical memoir about the creator’s experiences living with colon cancer. Hilnama was enjoying her career as an erotic manga artist when her life was derailed by a colon cancer diagnosis. Despite her terminal condition, she pursued treatment and fought for her life. She writes her story with humor, but her tenacity and her will to live shines throughout the story. The author uses this work to process and explore her feelings throughout her experience while simultaneously educating people on the importance of regular screenings. I’m a Terminal Cancer Patient But I’m Fine. is an incredible illustration of what living with cancer looks like, both for the patient and their family members.

Hilnama (Author and Artist): Hilnama began her career as an erotic manga artist and began working on I'm a Terminal Cancer Patient, but I'm Fine. after her colon cancer diagnosis.

Winner: Youth

Invisible: A Graphic Novel created by Christina Diaz Gonzalez & Gabriela Epstein. Published by Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.

Themes: Color/Race/Ethnicity/Nationality, Feminism

In Invisible, a group of five students are called to the principal’s office to recount what happened when they were forced together to do community service at their school. This graphic novel allows characters that are often grouped and stereotyped to showcase their social, economic, racial, and cultural differences as each one presents their part of the story.  In addition to the phenomenal diversity, it follows the fun journey of a unique group of middle-grade students setting aside their disagreements and working around language barriers to come together for a common purpose. Invisible will wow readers with its cast and surprise twist at the end. A delightful read, especially for those who’ve felt invisible.


Christina Diaz Gonzalez (Author)
Christina Diaz Gonzalez is the Edgar Award-winning author of Concealed, Moving Target, The Red Umbrella, and A Thunderous Whisper. She is the author of the graphic novel Invisible, with Gabriela Epstein. Her books have received numerous honors and recognitions including the Florida Book Award and the Nebraska Book Award. They have also been named the American Library Association's Best Fiction for Young Adults, a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, and the International Reading Association's Teachers' Choice. Learn more at christinagonzalez.com.

Gabriela Epstein (Artist)
Gabriela Epstein is the creator of the New York Times bestselling graphic novel adaptation of Claudia and the New Girl by Ann M. Martin. She graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a degree in illustration and has worked as a character designer for TV animation. When she isn’t making comics, she enjoys yo-yoing, listening to spooky podcasts, and watching historical documentaries. She lives in Austin, Texas. Visit her online at gre-art.com.


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Honor Books: Adult

The Third Person by Emma Grove; art by Emma Grove. Published by Drawn & Quarterly.

Themes: LGBTQIA+, Disability (Invisible)

The Third Person by Emma Grove is a gripping memoir about her experiences with seeking therapy for gender transition. Over the course of therapy, Emma and her therapists uncover a host of unprocessed trauma that goes to the core of her identity and threatens to derail the process of her transition. Despite its 904-page length, this work is an exceptionally quick read. Emma’s simple illustrations and knack for rendering expressions combined with the harrowing dialogue make for a page-turning narrative. Emma’s experiences with therapy are treated in great detail and with sobering honesty. The Third Person is a powerful testament to the forces that shape identity, and the human capacity to endure and recover from untold depths of pain. 

Ripple Effects by Jordan Hart; art by Bruno Chiroleu. Published by Fanbase Press. 

Theme: Disability (Invisible)

Ripple Effects written by Jordan Hart and illustrated by Bruno Chiroleu, tells the story of George Gibson who, in a world of superheroes, fights against his own superpowers. The superhero tale includes distinctive characters, blurbs from individuals who relate to the main character or parts of the story, and richly colored artwork.  The features of different diseases and disabilities are featured in the blurbs which further highlights the difference that George has from other superheroes. George Gibson has an incurable illness of Type 1 diabetes and other complications which are incurable. The story flows well with conflicts that are present in different times and with different characters of the novel. The story is one that is set apart from other novels on the market because the hero’s greatest weakness is his own body.

Movements & Moments by Various Authors and Artists. Published by Drawn & Quarterly.

Themes: Color/Race/Ethnicity/Nationality, Class, Feminism, LGBTQ+, Religion, Age, Forced Minority, Disability

This anthology of eight marginalized and indigenous voices captures the political and historical conflicts experienced by women in the Global South. Featuring women’s stories from a variety of nationalities, including the Central Highland communities of Vietnam and the Kichwa community of Ecuador, the anthology draws attention to women’s experiences of gender discrimination, ageism, political oppression, and religious persecution. The consistent theme of women confronting their communities and governments connects each distinct art style, in which many of the illustrators use color to code emotions, characters, and plot developments. The meticulous book layout and design invites repeated readings, as does the thoughtful notes and background information provided with each story. With a secondary focus on environmental issues and activism, this impactful anthology highlights struggles largely unknown to North American audiences.

My Brain is Different: Stories of ADHD and Other Developmental Disorders by Monzusu; art by Monzusu. Published by Seven Seas. 

Themes: Disability (Invisible)

This anthology of nine stories features neurodivergent adults in the process of recognizing and understanding their own developmental disorder diagnoses and that of their family members. Along with the main characters’ exploration of the newfound diagnoses, the stories center on connections to childhood behaviors and the way the disorders affect family dynamics. Featuring a wide range of neurodivergent voices from Japan, the unique perspectives explore the difficulties many experience in educational, friend group, and workplace settings, often leading to abuse and suicide ideation. While every story is distinct, the entire collection is made cohesive by manga artist and first contributor, Monzusu. The multifaceted characters and range of circumstances show the complexity of neurodivergent adults’ lived experiences.

Sensory: Life on the Spectrum by Bex Ollerton (Editor), Various Authors; Various Artists. Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing.

Themes: Disability (Invisible)

Sensory: Life on the Spectrum is a rich and eclectic anthology from autistic creators illustrating the autistic experience. Curator Bex Ollerton brings together 30 stories that detail what it is like to be autistic in a world that is not made to accommodate neurodivergence. Each story tackles a different issue, from the difficulty of pursuing diagnosis to the intersection of autistic and queer identities to building a community. In a colorful variety of art styles, each story is an authentic and unflinching glimpse into the lived experiences of autistic folks. This collection is primarily a self-affirming work, centering and amplifying dozens of autistic voices, and it also serves a secondary educational purpose. It is undoubtedly a book in which everyone can find relevance and meaning.

Honor Books: Youth

Growing Pangs by Kathryn Ormsbee; art by Molly Brooks. Published by Random House Books for Young Readers.

Themes: Disability

New year, new friends, new experiences.

For Katie, anything is possible with her best friend by her side, but after summer camp their relationship becomes strained. Anxiety over her appearance, losing her best friend, and making new friends are giving Katie ‘buzzing thoughts,’ and they won’t go away. Growing Pangs explores the changes that occur over the course of a year, and the worries that come with those changes–many of which will be relatable to young readers.

The book addresses mental and social-emotional health issues in an accessible manner, thanks to Brooks’ style which visually captures the ‘buzzing thoughts’ in a way that is instantly understandable without being stigmatizing. In addition, the book looks at the stereotypes surrounding homeschooled children. Growing Pangs takes the popular graphic biography style and injects a much-needed look through the lens of a neurodivergent protagonist. Inspired by the author's own life experience, the characters and pacing feel natural. It’s essential for young readers to know that they are not alone when facing mental health struggles, and reading this book will help them feel seen.

Miss Quinces: A Graphic Novel by Kat Fajardo; Art by Kat Fajardo. Published by Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.

Themes: Color/Race/Ethnicity/Nationality, Feminism

Universal middle-grade themes of friendship, family, and identity shine against the setting of a young girl’s quiñceanera. Sue’s reluctant family trip to Honduras separates her from a summer of friends, and only seems to reinforce her stress that she isn’t normal enough for her family–that she doesn’t like the right things or act the way that everyone else wants her to. As her abuela helps Sue find confidence in herself and appreciation for family traditions, differences between Sue’s life in America and the culture of her large family in Honduras causes additional tension. Inspiring the gamut of emotions, this heartfelt and touching story includes excellent additional material about the culture, history, and religion of quiñceanera ceremonies, an important celebration for many families of Latinx descent.

The Tryout: A Graphic Novel by Christina Soontornvat & Joanna Cacao; Art by Joanna Cacao. Published by Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.

Themes: Color/Race/Ethnicity/Nationality, Feminism, Religion

The Tryout is a color-filled graphic novel that follows middle-schooler Christina, who is one of two students of color at the whole school. Her family moved from a diverse and very welcoming town to Grangeview, Texas where she and her family did not fit in at all. Her first and closest friend she made is Megan, who happened to be the only other student of color. They are the closest of friends up until middle school when their personal interests start to diverge. Christina hopes that since they are both trying out to be cheerleaders the friendship will be like it was before. The novel takes readers of all ages on a journey through a middle school filled with fun, new friendships, and trials to conquer. The artwork is stunning and tells the story through the creative use of shading, shadows, and textures. The bravery and perseverance seen in this autobiographical graphic novel will push you to realize “every ending is a new beginning.”

The Woman in the Woods by Kate Ashwin, Kel McDonald, Alina Pete (editors); Various Artists. Published by Iron Circus Comics.

Themes: Color/Race/Ethnicity/Nationality, LGBTQIA+

The Woman in the Woods is a beautiful black and white anthology of myths from indigenous tribes across the continent. We get to experience creation myths, cautionary tales, and stories that explain natural phenomena that have been passed through the generations. All ages can enjoy this collection that sparks an interest in learning more about the varied cultures of the indigenous peoples of North America. The artwork of this book feels deeply connected to the stories and transports you to another place. Honoring two-spirit people, the compassion of children, and the loving way humans pass on stories, this anthology is sure to become a favorite.

Welcome to St. Hell: My Trans Teen Misadventure by Lewis Hancox; Art by Lewis Hancox. Published by Graphix.

Themes: LGBTQIA+

Welcome to St. Hell is a joy-filled story about becoming yourself and living out loud. Lewis Hancox is a trans man who had a long road of figuring out how to just be himself. With side interviews with the closest and most important people to his story, we get to see Lewis grow, becoming more confident, and reconciling with his past to create his future. This graphic memoir sets itself apart by showing a triumphant, successful trans adult and gives hope to those who haven’t yet come out and fear what that will look like. It acts as a lifeline for teens and adults who are scared to be who they are and shows them that it can get better.

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Overfloweth: Adult

Shubeik Lubeik by Deena Mohamed; Art by Deena Mohamed. Published by Pantheon Books.

Themes: Color/Race/Ethnicity/Nationality, Religion, LGBTQIA+

In Deena Mohamed’s Shubeik Lubeik wishes are for sale, albeit heavily regulated. Three wishes find their way to an unassuming kiosk in downtown Cairo. The book is divided into three sections, each chapter following one of the three wishes. Aziza, a widow, must struggle through endless bureaucracy in order to even use her wish. No one believes she could afford a wish, she must have taken it illegally. Nour, a non-binary college student, wrestles with whether or not it’s possible to wish away depression. Shokry, the proprietor of the unassuming kiosk, wants to use the last wish on an ailing friend, an elderly Catholic woman in a predominantly Muslim Cairo, who doesn’t want or believe in the wish. While set in a magical world, Shubeik Lubeik uses deft storytelling and captivating art to underscore the struggles of modern life—religious, political, and personal.

Talk to My Back by Yamada Murasaki; Art by Yamada Murasaki. Published by Drawn & Quarterly.

Themes: Feminism 

Talk to My Back is a masterpiece by the Japanese manga artist Yamada Murasaki and was originally serialized in the magazine Garo between 1981 and 1984. The main character, Chiharu, is a Japanese housewife who yearns for an independent existence in a patriarchal society that expects her to remain trapped in the role of dutiful wife and mother within a family characterized by spousal neglect and inequality. Yamada achieves remarkable narrative compression in every chapter: the empty spaces and unsaid thoughts of Chiharu carry an importance and resonance of their own. Yamada’s art style is breezy and uncluttered. The translator’s essays at the end of the book are an added gem that provides further context for the work. Chiharu is a stand-in for Yamada, who lived this story. Yamada created the artwork during the brief swatches of time she had after taking care of her own family. Talk to My Back is a work whose central feminist themes continue to reverberate, some 40 years after its original publication.

New Masters by Shobo; Art by Shof. Published by Image Comics.

Themes: Color/Race/Ethnicity/Nationality

Set in a futuristic Africa, Ola, a young scavenger, with a robot companion is reunited with her parents, who lead a small team of hired thieves. They are hired by a wealthy and powerful man to find an ancient artifact known as the Eye of Orunmila. However, they aren’t the only ones after the artifact. A prominent politician and her alien wife are also searching for the Eye. What follows is a coming-of-age story that’s equal parts action, adventure, and family drama. Beautifully rendered and thoughtfully plotted, New Masters uses Afrofuturism to ask questions about colonization and exploitation. The authors’ knowledge and use of Yoruba mythology sets New Masters apart from other science fiction adventure stories and provides a unique perspective into the lasting effects of colonialism.

How to Make a Monster by Casanova Frankenstein; Art by Glenn Pearce. Published by Fantagraphics

Themes: Color/Race/Ethnicity/Nationality

How to Make a Monster written by Casanova Frankenstein and illustrated by Glenn Pearce is a story about a black boy growing up alternative in the Southside of Chicago during the 80s. At the age of 13 this boy is shy and on the outside looking in. As he is finding himself, he is running from bullies, his family, and his own anxiety. One of the best things about the graphic novel is the illustrations which depict the inner feelings and instability of the young boy. There are some illustrations that are realistic in feeling but oftentimes we are faced with embellishment and surreal imagery. Rawness is felt through the story, and it stands out because it is not just a story of a black boy, but about being a part of a community and still being forced outside of it.

Días de Consuelo by Dave Ortega; Art by Dave Ortega. Published by Radiator Comics.

Themes: Color/Race/Ethnicity/Nationality, Religion, Feminism

Dias De Consuelo is a wonderful depiction of both womanhood and Mexican immigration. The freshness of David Ortega’s point of view is what makes this book unique and attractive to readers. It depicts the height of the Mexican Revolution and how the author's grandmother dealt with the events. The book explores themes like displacement and healing through the lens of these historical events. Mexican immigration is shown in an oppressive but vibrant manner that is reminiscent of today’s border immigration resistance. The fact that this is told using the voices of women, highlights the differences that they had to go through during a revolution in a mostly patriarchal society. The book has very rich and beautiful art that highlights each face with clear details and reactions.

Overfloweth: Youth

But I Live: Three Stories of Child Survivors of the Holocaust by Charlotte Schallié; Art by Barbara Yelin, Gilad Seliktar and Miriam Libicki. Published by New Jewish Press.

Themes: Religion

The three stories in this collection, each illustrated by a different artist interviewing a Holocaust survivor from Romania, Holland, and the Netherlands, are as varied as the art styles represented. Bolstered by essays providing historical context, each story is complemented by written recollections from the interview subjects and comic-style reflections of the artist interviewers. Through the childhood experiences of the four survivors, we see the effects of racism, discrimination, and war, and watch as hate takes a toll on their homes, families, and identities. All equally beautiful and devastating, these stories feel deeply intimate and preserve crucial historical facts and emotional context, making this text an essential addition to a well-rounded collection.


DPS Only! by Velinxi; Art by Velinxi. Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing.

Themes: Feminism

A timely graphic novel that explores how women and feminine-presenting people are treated in mainstream gaming culture, DPS Only follows Vicky, a gamer girl who spends her time helping her pro-gamer brother, Virgil, build his popularity–but also secretly plays the same game that helped her brother become famous. Vicky wants so badly to make it to the big leagues of e-sports but doesn’t know how, until a competition provides the opportunity she’s been looking for. In disguise and in partnership with her team, Vicky fights to prove herself to be as good and passionate as all the trolls who would just as soon bully her away from the game. Featuring a cast of multicultural characters who aren’t afraid to break stereotypes and write their own stories, this is a wonderful novel for any gamer.

Ghosts of Science Past by Joseph Sieracki; Art by Jesse Lonergan. Published by Humanoids.

Themes: Color/Race/Ethnicity/Nationality, Feminism

Ghosts AND science?! It’s A Christmas Carol with a scientific twist!

Trevor is an apathetic student on the brink of failing biology. The night before an important quiz, Trevor is visited by the ghost of Charles Darwin who explains that the impending quiz will greatly impact Trevor’s future and that soon, Trevor will be haunted by the ghosts of three scientists. As the story progresses, Trevor (and the reader) are introduced to key scientific concepts as well as a diverse group of scientists readers might not be familiar with, such as Chien-Shiung Wu and Ernest Everett Just. Sieracki’s witty narrative and Lonergan’s dynamic art will educate, entertain, and perhaps change your future.

King Warrior by Jay Bulckaert and Erika Nyyssonen; Art by Lucas Green. Published by Renegade Arts Entertainment.

Themes: Color/Race/Ethnicity/Nationality

King Warrior sets itself apart by telling a story within a story that connects a father and son across thousands of miles through the power of imagination. Awale is driving a taxi in Canada as he saves money to bring his wife and son from Somalia. We see that he is writing and drawing a comic book to send to his son, Afrah, and the comic book begins to mirror real life and the challenges that Afrah and Awale are facing. This action-packed story gives insight into what it’s like to immigrate to a new country while having to be away from your family, and how children may be affected by a beloved parent’s absence. A well-told story that interweaves Somali, Finnish, and Japanese cultures to form a unique reading experience.

Lowriders to the Rescue! by Cathy Camper; Art by Raúl Gonzalez III. Published by Chronicle Books.

Themes: Color/Race/Ethnicity/Nationality

With the bold, unmistakable style we’ve come to expect from illustrator Raul the Third, the latest installment in the Lowriders series explodes off the page with color, chaos, and energy. As the intrepid trio battle everything from colorblindness and crushes to climate change and gentrification with the help of friends old and new, integrated Spanish, French, and Arabic phrases with translations emphasize the multicultural aspect of the Lowriders community. Complex layers of social issues, language, and history provide depth, without assuming that younger readers are unable to grasp concepts, or at least find empathetic ground.

Magical Boy Volume 1: A Graphic Novel by The Kao; Art by The Kao. Published by Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.

Themes: LGBTQIA+, Color/Race/Ethnicity/Nationality

Take the ‘Magical Girl’ genre and add a twist. Magical Boy Volume 1 follows the story of Max, a transgender boy, who is recently coming to terms with his identity and is ready to confront the world with it. Unfortunately for him, he has suddenly sprouted magical girl powers and learns he is part of a long line of magical girls. While his mother, a former magical girl, pressures him to be one with his femininity, Max struggles with coming out as a trans teen facing crippling depression and self-doubt. Volume 1 showcases Max’s hardships to make his new magical powers his own and how the best support is from friends you make along the way.

Magical Boy Volume 2: A Graphic Novel by The Kao; Art by The Kao. Published by Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.

Themes: LGBTQIA+, Color/Race/Ethnicity/Nationality, Feminism

Magical Boy Volume 2 focuses on Max’s struggle to fully take on the role of a magical boy while confronting transphobia and working through his depression and self-doubt. This graphic novel really focuses on his hardships and confronting those feelings, allowing for a raw presentation of emotions that a trans teen may be dealing with. In order to win against the opposing threat, Max must embrace his identity, confront his transphobic mother, and accept his friends’ love. This graphic novel offers a resolute conclusion to the story where a trans character prevails and saves the day. 


Max Velocity by Graeme Partridge-David; Art by Graeme Partridge-David. Published by Arcana Studios.

Themes: Disability (Invisible), LGBTQIA+, Color/Race/Ethnicity/Nationality

Max Velocity is on the autistic spectrum and a member of a team of young superheroes, known as The Exceptionals! Living up to their superhero parents’ legacy is not easy, especially when dealing with threats to their headquarters, The Safe House, but they try their best, even when situations become overwhelming. Written and illustrated by Graeme Partridge-David, an autistic adult, the book features a bold art style and a diverse cast of cleverly-named young heroes. With stories focusing on non-violent problem solving, inclusion, teamwork, and acceptance, Max Velocity is a perfect book for parents looking to introduce young readers to the superhero genre.

I Survived Hurricane Katrina, 2005: A Graphic Novel (I Survived Graphic Novel #6) by Lauren Tarshis; Art by Alvin Epps. Published by Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.

Themes: Color/Race/Ethnicity/Nationality

Barry and his family try to flee their Lower Ninth Ward home ahead of Hurricane Katrina, but traffic and his little sister’s sudden illness force the family to return. When the levee breaks, the family scrambles to their roof, but Barry is swept off and into the flood. What follows is a harrowing tale of destruction and heroism.

An engaging piece of historical fiction, Georgia Ball skillfully adapts Tarshis’ popular book, bringing the full drama of the people of New Orlean’s struggle to survive Hurricane Katrina through the experiences of one boy. Barry and his family are fictional, but they represent so many real-life families of color who lost their community and even their lives to the storm.

Alvin Epps incredible art, especially the detailed backgrounds, and Chi Ngo’s colors bring New Orleans to life in a way that makes the reader accept the city as a character, which makes its destruction all the more impactful.

All Rise: Resistance and Rebellion in South Africa by Richard Conyngham; Art by Saaid Rahbeeni, Mark Modimola, Tumi Mamabolo, Dada Khanyisa, Liz Clarke, The Trantraal Brothers André and Nathan. Published by Catalyst Press.

Themes: Color/Race/Ethnicity/Nationality

An anthology piece featuring six stories brought to life by different graphic artists, All Rise is an incredibly unique resource for a slice of South African history. Encompassing a formative thirty-eight-year period in the early 1900s, each chapter uses old court documents as a primary source and illustrates the very real stories of ordinary South Africans. These sources, accompanying the artists’ interpretations, provide historical context and factual support so readers of any nationality and time period can empathize with and understand the motivations of individuals on all sides of the conflict in the pre-apartheid era. An important contribution to our collective memory of a specific place and time, the innovation of All Rise is a necessary step in our modern interpretation of history.

Amazona by Canizales; Art by Canizales. Published by Lerner Publishing Group.

Themes: Color/Race/Ethnicity/Nationality, Forced Minority

Andrea, a 19-year-old Colombian woman, returns carrying only a small wooden box to the home her people were forcibly removed from. What follows is a powerfully told tale of injustice that challenges the reader, through a harrowing and yet engaging narrative, to bear witness to real-world atrocities inflicted on indigenous peoples. The illustrations are muted blacks and whites, save for the occasional burst of red for emphasis. It is unlikely your readers will have encountered anything quite like Amazona. It will stay with you long after it's been read.