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.
Jeff Widener/Associated Press
As important as this topic is to discuss, there are a few flaws with the execution of the novel. IDW creatives have capitalized on the format from George Takei's They Called Us Enemy in that Lun Zhang seems to be standing in a lecture hall delivering this story. We cut between Zhang and images of China from his recollection of events. There are lots of large blocks of narrative text next to an illustration depicting a small portion of what’s described, which leads to a missed opportunity to really involve the reader in the visual narrative. There are a lot of people introduced without really describing who they are or how they were important, almost as if we as readers are supposed to have enough background information to fill in the gaps. Because this is told from a personal perspective, some national perspectives were included, but lacked at other times. At only 112 pages, it really seemed like there was more room to flesh out this story completely. All that said, Lun Zhang provides insight from the perspective of the protestors and shows how important the fight for democracy was for them. This event is an important piece of Modern China's history that is often only discussed as a photograph, and this book gives much more weight to the insurmountable odds of one man standing in front of an onslaught of tanks.
Sara's Rating: 6/10
Suitability Level: Grades 9-12
This review was made possible with an advanced reader copy from the publisher through Edelweiss. The publication date for this title is set for June 16, 2020.
Tags: Rating: 6/10, Suitability: High School, Memoir, History
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