Regardless of personal feelings of the legal system, or the rights/privileges you feel a prisoner deserves due to crimes committed verses what we would consider an “innocent confinement,” this graphic novel, Flying Kites: A Story of the 2016 California Prison Hunger Strike by the Stanford Graphic Novel Project, is an eye-opening piece of literature.
The Stanford Project chooses a subject of importance, and recently, they choose one that would highlight one of the largest hunger strikes the California prison system had seen. It would shine light on a nation and on the use of solitary confinement as a punishment for prisoners, and the treatment of prisoners while inside these cells. Cells that are approximately the size of a handicapped bathroom stall. Sometimes it might be hard to remember this book is not set in a country we would assume had human right violations, but in California, USA 2013.
Told through the eyes of a prisoner and his adult daughter, we explore how leaders of rival gangs, came together to protest their treatment with a strike that would cover all of California’s’ prisons and finally would spark change throughout the entire country. And not only did the prisoners do the hunger strike (some as long as almost two months) but their families would become involved as well protesting, campaigning, speaking out anyplace that would listen. And once the events were learned of, the noticing would finally go as high as the President Barack Obama himself.
The authors focus on the reasons of the prisoners, though they do touch slightly on some of the reasons the prison officials were fighting back (they felt it was a way for the gang leaders, and therefore the gangs, to take control of the prison itself). I would have liked to have seen a slightly more balanced viewpoint shown, as it does sway more on the liberal side, but it is still good look at the event.
There are extras including more background, an interview, biographies, and other books created by the group. However, it does look like those might not be a readily available as this one. While this is marketed for adults, older teens should be able to appreciate as well.