Illustrated by Nate Powell
On the morning of Barack Obama’s inauguration to his first term as president, Congressman John Lewis readies himself in his office in Washington D.C. A lady with two kids stops by the office, obviously not expecting the Congressman to be there, but they are delighted to find him and ask questions about his life and his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. This launches Lewis down memory lane as he recounts his childhood from growing up on a farm, raising chickens, to going to school and getting involved in sit ins at local department store lunch counters. The work isn't done with those demonstrations, as later volumes promise to hold other activism and demonstrations Lewis took part in and led.
Mei and her father work in the kitchen for a logging camp in the Sierra Nevada mountains in the late 1800s, where they expertly make delicious meals for the loggers after a long day of hard work. Mei makes wonderful pies that everyone craves, and at night, she entertains the camp's chidlren by telling fanciful stories. One such stories is the legend of Po Pan Yin, an elderly Chinese woman logger who watches over the camp and works in the forest with her giant blue ox. The children accuse Mei of stealing the American legend of Paul Bunyan, but Mei makes Auntie Po into her own myth and a guardian spirit for the camp and herself. With the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act limiting the opportunities and safety for Chinese immigrants, Mei and her father must navigate an increasingly hostile community where violence against Chinese workers is not uncommon. On top of all of this, Mei must work out her feelings for her best friend Bee, which are becoming increasingly romantic, as well as plan for her future away from the logging camp.
Illustrated by Tim Foley
Dan Rather's original prose book, What Unites Us, is a collection of essays, musings and observations with lots of autobiographical details, about American history and political climate. This graphic novel adapts many of the essays from the prose version. The historical events are not told in any sort of chronological order. Instead, Rather uses his perspective on key historical moments to illustrate bigger ideologies; things like "courage", or "patriotism." Rather attempts to explain what is special about America, what brings us together as a nation, but also what has worked to separate us, especially partisan bickering and political turmoil.
Illustrated by Stacey Robinson
This book seeks to chronicle the success that was Greenwood, Oklahoma, a portion of the city of Tulsa that was a completely segregated Black community. Several Black business owners, entrepreneurs, and real-estate investors had a vision for a community that could be sustained entirely without white businesses, and they went about creating a thriving town with grocery stores, entertainment venues, mortgage offices, banks, and just about everything else you need in a town. Because so much was offered, much of the Black community spent their money in Greenwood, rather than in Tulsa, and money was spent several times over inside Greenwood before going to white businesses. Greenwood got the nickname "Black Wall Street" from Booker T. Washington when he came on a visit. Then, a race war came to Tulsa, with claims that a young Black man touched a white woman. Residents of Greenwood armed themselves and marched on the courthouse to protect the young man. But white residents of Tulsa were also marching on the court house, and the ensuing battle resulted in the destruction of most of Greenwood, the implementation of a military state, the deputization of hundreds of armed white Tulsans, and the systematic execution of many of Greenwood's residents.
Backderf's latest novel is a meticulous account of the events of May 1-4, 1970 at Kent State University. The storyline follows Jeff, Allison, Bill, and Sandy, the four students who were killed during anti-Vietnam-war, anti-military conflicts on Kent State's campus, as well as several of the wounded students and a few of the soldiers of the National Guard. Rising tensions between student protestors and National Guardsmen were stoked by sleep-deprived soldiers and commanding officers, a governor infused with law-and-order politics, and persistent student protests that were unrelenting for several days. Throughout, there are pages of exposition offering insights from Backderf's extensive research.
Illustrated by Pedro J. Colombo, colored by Aintzane Landa
This story is based on true events of the life of Francisco Boix, a prisoner of war interned at Mauthausen.
Boix is a Spaniard and a newspaper photographer and communist who is captured in France and sent to several camps before ending up at Mauthausen. For a while, Francisco works as a translator, tasked with translating the insults German soldiers hurl at the prisoners. Later, Francisco is moved up to working in the photography lab at the camp, where he discovers that the SS are meticulously documenting the deaths of prisoners, but staging them and classifying them as suicides or escape attempts. Despite the dangers to his life and the life of those in the camp, Francisco decides it is exceedingly important to get the negatives of these photos out of the camp to show the world what the Nazis were really doing in these extermination camps. After the war, Francisco participates as a witness in the Nuremberg trials, but he finds that most people cannot fathom the photos so many risked their lives to save.
Illustrated by Alexis Vitrebert
This story of Versailles is told from the perspective of Henri de Nolhac, son of Pierre de Nolhac, who came to be a steward of the palace during the Third French Republic. This is not Versailles during the time of kings and queens. This is Versailles as it was just beginning to be appreciated as an historical masterpiece, and thanks in large part to the dedication of Pierre. But, the demands of restoring the palace took a toll on the family life of Pierre, which is also included in great detail. This story also includes how Versailles morphed during the Great War, changing from a monument to a refuge for wounded soldiers and a place of gathering for Christmas celebrations and the like. Extensive end-notes provide more historical context for the de Nolhac family and the source materials for the creative team.
Adrien Gombeaud & Améziane, illustrators
This historical graphic novel begins an explanation for the student protests beginning April 15th, 1989 and concluding in the Tiananmen Massacre on June 5th, 1989. Most people know of this event from the famous photo, Tank Man (pictured below). What isn't largely talked about is the months before this photo where students camped out in Tiananmen Square and inspired protests across China. Students and professors participated in Hunger Strikes against the Chinese government and demonstrated in the hopes that the country would move away from dictatorships and into democracy. The People's Liberation Army was called in to clear the square, but citizens of Beijing impeded their progress and protected the students. Wealthy businessmen became involved as financial backers of the protest. Some of these protests were captured by the Worlds' Press reports during a state visit from Mikhail Gorbachev, but there still exists a lack of certainty about those involved, number of deaths from the Massacre, and much more.
This book has only been out for a week and DANG has it taken the world by storm. Highly reviewed from several publishers, so I won't gush too much, but this is such a powerful story and so necessary. I know publication dates are decided well in advance, but this book hit the shelves just as America was talking about our border camps being another incarnation of the Japanese internment camps. PERFECT TIMING!
I've been reading Manga and comicbooks for years. Now, it's time to share my knowledge with you.
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