I guess I am not 100% sure what to make of this one. It’s very good, without a doubt, truly it’s very good. And while one of my students did read it and enjoy it, I was the one who mentioned it to her. And he response was basically, well I liked it, but it wasn’t fun. And I think that about sums it up.
It’s very very good and interesting to be sure. I learned some things too, or rather was reminded of things I had forgotten. For example, I had forgotten all about the training the activists went through where people would hurl abuses at them over and over again to get used to it. I also forgot that John Lewis is certainly an older man, but he was quite young at the outset of this novel and during the various programs he was a part of. That he came out of all this to become a senior Congressman is even more impressive.
This also reminds me and hopefully shows students how coordinated and calculate so much of the Civil Rights era protests were. We are wrongly and I think purposely taught a BS narrative of the events to make it seem like people were pushed too far, but also they responded with grace. While that’s true, the protests were incredibly organized and thought out. Instead of this simply being a “I have had too much” type thing. I think the other version is very sympathetic but purposely disingenuous in part because it allows for a narrative of….things were wrong and then we fixed them, kind of thing. Anyway, this is good. My only criticism is that I don’t think the novel places this story within context well enough. I know it, but I think a kid coming to this would need to do some specific research to understand, or worse, might just give up on it.
Update: Vol.s 2 and 3:
So I am updating this post because I got the next two volumes out from the library. And so the full scope of the story and the narrative itself comes together.
Some things I really like about the whole: there’s a true narrative push toward a modern era culmination. I like that this feels like a complete story, and that it can avoid the need to drag this out in a theater, because for too many reasons it doesn’t feel like the right format for this story….there are too many atmospheric elements, digressions, and narrative breaks for introducing important historical figures for film.
But I also think the narrative push toward a culmination is a sad reminder of our current state of affairs. How do we process today, where a racist-incarnate, double-talking, turd is in the White House, garnering praise for barely keeping it together for the last two months? I ask this because the narrative of these comics pushes toward inauguration day for Barack Obama back in 2008, a day that feels impossibly long ago in terms of history and cultural/emotional living space.
I think maybe this duality or this abrupt shift becomes a reminder of the need for this kind of story and an addendum that these fights don’t come to a close, despite a real desire to close them off.
We tell stories in this country of injustice as if a) those fights are over, b) times and people inherently changed with those fights, c) that once won, can not be taken away, and d) that the people we were fighting against were some foreign enemy, and not just ourselves.
Liberally-minded, I am much more like the fighters for progress than those who fight against it, but it was white culture and white establishment who did it, and I am pretty damn white.
All the elements that are cast as enemies in this series are still present today….in different forms, in different methods, and in different degrees, but they’re still here. So I hope this story can serve as that kind of reminder.
I also think about why this format is so effective. I think about how great it is that YA is so marketable these days and why so much YA is progressive in spirit, if not specifically political. I think a book like this helped to bridge the broader cultural themes present in book like The Hunger Games to real world fights. A comic book is consumable, and for kids who cannot read too well, it’s manageable. Ultimately whatever medium allows the message to reach its audience is the right one. I think seeing this narrative wrap up with Barack Obama, puts it in the real world and disrupts those kinds of escapist feelings that film often pulls out of us.