Nick Sousanis’s Unflattening, a theoritcal treatise on the use of visual storytelling, has won the 2016 Lynd Ward Prize for Graphic Novel of the Year. The award is presented annually by Penn State to honor an outstanding graphic novel.
“‘Unflattening,’” the jury noted, “is an innovative, multi-layered graphic novel about comics, art and visual thinking. The book’s ‘integrated landscape’ of image and text takes the reader on an Odyssean journey through multiple dimensions, inviting us to view the world from alternate visual vantage points. These perspectives are inspired by a broad range of ideas from astronomy, mathematics, optics, philosophy, ecology, art, literature, cultural studies and comics. The graphic styles and layouts in this work are engaging and impressive and succeed in making the headiest of ideas accessible. In short, ‘Unflattening’ takes sequential art to the next level. It takes graphic narrative into the realm of theory, and it puts theory into practice with this artful presentation of how imaginative thinking can enrich our understanding of the world.”
Unflattening began as Sousanis’s doctoral dissertation for Teachers College at Columbia University. It’s quite a mind-trip. You can read more about it here. He also has his own site here. Sousanis is also a contributor to the scholarly site What Were Comics, I believe, although the site appears to have been knocked offline at the mo.
Two honor books were also salted: Lucy Knisley’s Displacement and Russian Olive to Red King, by Kathryn Immonen and Stuart Immonen
About “Displacement,” the jury said, “Lucy Knisley’s ‘Displacement’ is a perfect memoir comic. Her vibrant watercolor illustration humanizes the reality of caring for loved ones as they age with candor and grace. The narrative of her grandfather’s journal from World War II woven in with harrowing cruise experiences is a crucial touchstone, reminding us that her grandparents are so much more than what they can express to the outside world in the present.”
About “Russian Olive to Red King,” the jury said, “Kathryn and Stuart Immonen’s ‘Russian Olive to Red King’ is that rare work of fine art that succeeds at cross-purposes; it is both successfully avant-garde and profoundly relatable. Stuart’s light, clean and deliberate artistic choices are the ideal counterpoint to Kathryn’s searing and devastating story of loss and grief, all of which leads to the novel’s formally upsetting and innovative coda.”
More details on the selection process in the link. This year’s jury was Chair John McComas, Kendra Boileau, Collin Colsher, and Beth Theobald.
This Lynd Ward Prize finishes up the two most prestigious literary awards for graphic novels. Siad Sattouf’s The Arab of the Future recently won the LA Tmes Book Prize in the graphic novel category.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.