Teaching Lived Religion through Graphic Novels

Posted On 17 Sep 2020 by religionmatters

Tim Hall, PhD Founder and Lead Consultant

In previous blogs, I examined the six-point framework in teaching about religion in the classroom. This framework provides a strong foundation in which to approach the topic of religion in the classroom. I also added a pedagogical method of teaching about religion: the lived religion model. This model exhibits the diversity and flexibility of religious beliefs and traditions. Graphic novels, in particular, bring this lived religion model to life so to speak. 

Many educators use graphic novels in the English and Social Studies classrooms to engage students in reading literacy. They also can be used very effectively to benefit student religious literacy. The powerful and eye-catching stories found in graphic novels appeal to students while also successfully demonstrating lived religious traditions. Below is a shortlist of graphic novels that can be used in the classroom to engage students in understanding lived religions. Also, below are some academic works on religion in graphic novels/comics and the graphic novel’s pedagogy in the classroom. Finally, I have provided a simple graphic organizer based on the six-point framework for understanding religion developed by Benjamin Marcus. [1] Students can complete the organizer when reading graphic novels to help build a fuller understanding of lived religions. The graphic organizer also aligns with standards from the National Council for the Social Studies C3 Framework: Religious Studies Companion Document. These include the following: D2.Rel.2.9-12, D2.Rel.3.9-12, D2.Rel.4.9-12, D2.Rel.5.9-12, D2.Rel.6.9-12, D2.Rel.7.9-12, D2.Rel.8.9-12, and D2.Rel.9.9-12. Please note that teachers should carefully read and review graphic novels before using them in the classroom. Some graphic novels may not be appropriate for all students. For example, Ms. Marvel may be suitable for most middle school classrooms, while Habibi may only be appropriate for college classrooms. 

Graphic Novels

  • Delisle, Guy, and Lucie Firoud. Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City. Montreal, ON: Drawn & Quarterly, 2012.
    • Delisle and Firoud explore the complexity of contemporary everyday Jerusalem from Muslim, Jewish, and Christian perspectives.
  • Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 2003.
    • Persepolis is a coming of age story of Marjane Satrapi who was raised in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution and Iran-Iraq War.
  • Spiegelman, Art. The Complete Maus. New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 2011.
    • Maus is a classic. The graphic novel focuses on a son’s pursuit in understanding his father’s experience of the Holocaust as a Polish Jew. What makes the graphic novel stand out is the author’s use of animals in depicting Jews, Germans, and Poles.
  • Thompson, Craig. Habibi. New York, NY: Random House, 2011.
    • Habibi details the story of refugee child slaves, Dodola and Zam while also contextualizing the culture of Christianity and Islam found in the modern Middle East.
  • _________. Blankets: A Graphic Novel. Montreal, ON: Drawn & Quarterly, 2016.
    • This semiautobiographical graphic novel explores the tensions in Christianity associated with new love relationships as a young adult.
  • Wilson, G. Willow, and Adrian Alphona. Ms. Marvel: No Normal. New York, NY: Marvel, 2014.
    • Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old Muslim girl from New Jersey, is the new Ms. Marvel in this reboot of a classic Marvel character. 
  • Yang, Gene Luen, and Lark Pien. Saints Volume 2. New York, NY: First Second, 2013.
    • Saints follows Vibiana who will have to decide on her loyalties – country or faith – in midst of the Boxer Rebellion in 1898 China. In this struggle, she eerily dialogues with the ghost of Joan of Arc.

Academic Works on Graphic Novels

Lived Religion Graphic Organizer


[1]  Benjamin Marcus, “Chapter 1: Teaching About Religion in Public Schools,” in Haynes, Charles C., ed. Teaching about Religion in the Social Studies Classroom.

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