Best Local (Graphic) Novel

'Sumo' by Thien Pham

What’s that you say? You don’t like graphic novels? Oh, okay. That’s cool. You should read Sumo anyway. Because thinking of the latest book by Oakland’s own Thien Pham as “just” a graphic novel — or, worse yet, a comic book — is like calling The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay a superhero book, or Oliver Twist a crime novel: It may be technically true, but it’s sort of missing the point. Sumo — which follows, for the most part, a washed-up football player as he journeys to Japan to become, you guessed it, a sumo wrestler — is a sincere meditation on risk and reward and sacrifice and self-discovery; a story that starts like a punch line and ends like a punch in the gut; one of those rare novels — graphic or not — that builds and blooms and breaks apart so beautifully and so cleverly that you’ll find yourself thinking about it days and weeks and months after. You may not think you like graphic novels, but you will after this.

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