Five questions with Maia Kobabe

“Every single person has a story only they can tell.”

Get to know CCA alum Maia Kobabe, MFA Comics 2015

Portrait of Maia Kobabe.

Maia Kobabe graduated from CCA with a MFA in Comics in 2015. Photo by Chelsea Kurnick.

Maia Kobabe (e/em/eir) is a nonbinary/queer/trans author and illustrator, a voracious reader, a k-pop fan, and a daydreamer. You can learn an astonishing number of intimate details about em in Gender Queer: A Memoir and in eir other short comics, published by The New Yorker, The Nib, The Washington Post and in many print anthologies. Gender Queer won a Stonewall Honor and an Alex Award from the American Library Association in 2020. It was also the most challenged book in the United States in 2021 and 2022.

Maia shares more about eir life as a full-time artist and activist, fighting to protect diverse literature and the freedom to access information.

1. What is your current practice/business?

I am a full time cartoonist. My job consists of days working at home writing and drawing mixed with days speaking out against book banning and censorship, and in support of the freedom to read, the freedom to teach, and the freedom to access information. I spend a lot of time talking with other authors, teachers, and librarians about protecting diverse and queer books from the current wave of conservative attacks. The first piece I drew for the comics journalism site The Nib was about the rise of fascism in the United States; my later writing about queer, trans, and nonbinary identities has led me into consistently political territory.

2. Why did you choose CCA?

I chose CCA because I was looking for a MFA Comics program, of which there are very few, and I wanted to stay in the Bay Area. Because I'm a local, I was able to meet the majority of the MFA Comics faculty before I applied and felt immediately welcomed into their community. The fact that a majority of my professors for the first year of the program were queer was a huge draw as well.

“No time spent creating is ever wasted.”

— Maia Kobabe

MFA Comics 2015

Flourish and Grow Print by Maia Kobabe.

Flourish and Grow print by Maia Kobabe.

3. If you could share one piece of advice with current or future students, what would it be?

Every single person has a story only they could tell. No matter what media you are working in, do your best to tell the story which is uniquely yours. If you aren't ready to tell it yet, just keep making art until the time to share that story arrives. No time spent creating is ever wasted.

4. What's your secret to staying inspired and creative?

I realized fairly early in life that my very favorite way to spend the day was drawing while listening to music, a podcast, or an audiobook. I like making things! I would rather be making things than doing almost anything else. I created a life in which I can spend a lot of time creating things and even if I don't particularly know what I am making, I am happy.

5. What do you have coming up?

My second book, Breathe: Journeys to Healthy Binding, written with Dr Sarah Pietzmeier, is coming out in May 2024 from Dutton. It's a nonfiction comic about chest binding as an aspect of trans healthcare. I'm currently drawing my third book, Saachi's Stories, written with Lucky Srikumar; it's due out from Scholastic Graphix in 2026. I am also working on adapting Gender Queer: A Memoir into an audiobook.