I tend to think I have a pretty good handle on the state of the graphic novel/comic scene, which is why when I stumble across a great book like this that I missed, it thrills me and makes me think about what else is out there that I haven’t found yet. This was a random find at a used bookstore, which is often my favorite way to find a book. It’s like a little gift that suddenly pops into your life! I wonder if part of the reason I missed this before is because it was published by an academic press (The University of Alabama Press), and also that it came out while I was in college, so maybe I was too busy? Mysteries abound, but I’m glad that I’ve now discovered this great memoir.
Darkroom is a graphic memoir by Lila Quintero Weaver that follows her experience of immigrating to Alabama from Argentina in 1961. Her family previously came to the US for her father’s preaching work and are now returning for him to teach languages at the local colleges. I think part of the reason why this memoir works so well is that she seamlessly combines her personal experience as a child figuring out her place in a new country, her family history, and the Civil Rights history that they find themselves in the middle of. Her family is placed into the While racial category and she goes to school with the White children, but as an outsider, she is able to serve as the reader’s lens through with to question the system and see the injustice of segregation and racism. Her art is also really pitch perfect for this project. I personally love this kind of black and white illustrative art, so it made the book a real treat to read. It worked very well for a history based memoir, as it gets across the reality of the situation and really conveys the horror of the violence that’s going on. The only thing I could critique would be that this felt like it ended a little abruptly, but that could have just been me wanting more of the book. I would highly recommend this for anyone interested in the incredibly recent and vital history of the Civil Rights movement. I think this would also be a great book to help introduce or help deepen the subject to a teenager.
Warnings for: segregation, racism, racial slurs, murder, lynching, violence.