Graphics with Guts

This event is part of the 2021 PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature. Visit to learn more and get tickets for other events.

The graphic novel can be a work of protest art, with no-holds-barred storytelling that exposes injustices and offers vivid visions of a better world. With protagonists as varied as a teen superheroes, immigrant cyclops, or historic champions of civil rights, G. Willow Wilson, Aminder Dhaliwal, and Brian Mitchell, in their latest works in the genre, boldly enter some of today’s most pressing conversations, with their depictions of characters’ struggles against marginality and the actions many of them take for social justice.

Brian Mitchell’s Oscar Dunn and His Radical Fight in Reconstruction Louisiana shares the largely untold story of America’s first Black lieutenant governor, who fought for radical change during the Reconstruction era. G. Willow Wilson is the American Muslim visionary behind Ms. Marvel’s beloved heroine, Kamala Khan, who juggles daily between being a regular Pakistani-Muslim teen from New Jersey and a superhero fighting evil. The hand behind the hit Instagram comic series, Woman World, Canadian cartoonist Aminder Dhaliwal, rounds out the panel with her playful and incisive meditation on immigrant identity and race in Cyclopedia Exotica. Moderated by Tochi Onyebuchi, an award-winning writer of speculative fiction for young adults and nonfiction.

This digital event will start at 7pm ET / 4pm PT. If you have any questions, please visit our FAQs.

Presented in collaboration with Word Up Community Bookshop and the PEN America Children’s and Young Adult Books Committee.

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Aminder Dhaliwal seated, with gaze and arms outstretched to post-it notes on rugAminder Dhaliwal grew up in Brampton, Ontario and received a Bachelor of Animation from Sheridan College. She has worked as director at Disney Television Animation, storyboard director at Cartoon Network, and storyboard director on Nickelodeon’s Sanjay and Craig. Her first book, Woman World, was serialized on Instagram where she has over 250,000 followers, appeared on 25 best of the year lists, and was named a Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) Great Graphic Novel for Teens. It has been optioned for television by Felicia Day. Her second book, Cyclopedia Exotica, comes out in May 2021. Dhaliwal lives in Los Angeles.

Brian Mitchell headshot Brian Keith Mitchell is a native of New Orleans and a resident of North Little Rock, AR. He identifies himself as a “transplanted New Orleanian,” who is forever thankful to the State of Arkansas for welcoming him during the chaotic aftermath of the hurricane. He is currently an assistant professor of History at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and an associate faculty member at the Anderson Institute on Race and Ethnicity.

G. Willow Wilson headshot G. Willow Wilson is the co-creator of the Hugo and American Book Award-winning comic book series Ms. Marvel (2013-2018) and has written for some of the world’s best-known superhero comic book series, including X-Men, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Her first novel, Alif the Unseen, won the 2013 World Fantasy Award for best novel and was a finalist for The Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. Her second novel, The Bird King, was longlisted for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. In 2015, she won the Graphic Literature Innovator Prize at the PEN America Literary Awards. Her work has been translated into over a dozen languages. She lives in Seattle.

Tochi Onyebuchi headshotTochi Onyebuchi is the author of Riot Baby, which won the New England Book Award for Fiction and an Alex Award, and is a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards. His young adult novels include the Beasts Made of Night series and the War Girls series. He holds degrees from Yale University, the New York University Tisch School of the Arts, Columbia Law School, and Sciences Po, and his short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Omenana, and Lightspeed Magazine, among other places. His most recent book is the nonfiction (S)kinfolk.

About Word Up Community Bookshop

Word Up is a multilingual, general-interest community bookshop and arts space in Washington Heights, New York City, committed to preserving and building a neighborhood in which all residents help each other to live better informed and more expressive lives, using books as an instrument of reciprocal education and exchange, empowering not only themselves, but their community. Word Up is run by volunteers from the uptown community. By hosting readings, concerts, screenings, art exhibitions, talks and workshops, community meetings, and other activities for kids and adults, they support and fortify the creative spirit unique to their diverse, uptown community.

Word Up is a program of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization Seven Stories Institute, whose mission is to provide necessary books to communities that do not otherwise have access to them and to stimulate discussion of important policy issues within those communities who have the most to lose in the current political and economic crises but have the least access to the terms of the debate.

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