I talked about this graphic novel series everywhere else on social media and in person, I can’t believe I didn’t share it here! I was so surprised and embarrassed that I forgot to include it on this page. MARCH is a powerful graphic novel trilogy by civil rights leader and Georgia Senator, John Lewis. Lewis shares his story and his involvement with SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) from training for nonviolent protests to integrating public spaces with sit-ins, to the Montgomery bus boycott, the Selma march, and the push to register black voters in the south.
The series is autobiographical, and reminds and educates readers about the fight and struggle to obtain not only equal rights, but a seat at the table. As a primary source, the emotion and experience of the civil rights movement captured in this series is immediate and powerful. The hatred experienced and loss shared in MARCH is a harsh reminder of the physical and murderous assaults that were met with nonviolence and peaceful protests.
The images, line work, and cartooning by Nate Powell are absolutely wonderful. The graphics are powerful, and add to the emotion and tone of this necessary story. Graphic novels and comics are excellent resources for readers, and that this story is told in this medium means that MARCH can and will find an even wider audience than a traditional autobiography.
There’s a beautiful thread throughout each book that jumps forward to the inauguration of former President Barack Obama— juxtaposing the legacy of John Lewis and the civil rights movement with Barack Obama’s presidency, a symbol of hope and healing for a nation with such an abusive racial past.
In the current political climate, and the many reports of emboldened discrimination, the rise of white supremacy, and local terrorism, MARCH is a heartbreaking reminder of the discipline and dedication needed for nonviolence resistance. John Lewis’ life work is an example of the perseverance and sacrifice necessary to fight and demand equality for the continually oppressed.
You can find a copy at your local bookstore, Powell’s, and your local library.
Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney is a wonderful book to teach children about the Civil Rights Movement and the work of young African American students as they fought against the injustice of segregation. The illustrations are vibrant and energetic, filled with the hope and energy of the students standing up for their rights by sitting down.
I was able to hear Andrea Davis Pinkney speak about picture books earlier this month, and she talked about how she presents this book to the young students she visits. Asking them to raise their hand if they’ve ever been to a restaurant, and asking again if they’ve ever been to a restaurant but were refused service, and then the hands drop.
How might that make you feel?
What would you do?
Sit-In is filled with beautiful language and rhythm, the oft repeated refrain, “their order was simple. A doughnut and coffee, with cream on the side.” Andrea Davis Pinkney does a wonderful job of including the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the text, as well as the work of Elle Baker in developing SNCC, that help illustrate different parts of the movement working together. We are not given a book just with Dr. King, Jr.’s words, but a book that incorporates his words and how they helped shape a call to action.
A civil rights timeline and additional information about the sit-ins is included as well as a bibliography. A great poetic book to share with young readers and begin a conversation about the civil rights movement, the importance of integration, and how this world is a better place when we’re treated equally.
“Their order was simple: A double dose of peace, with nonviolence on top. Hold the hate. Leave off the injustice.”
Find it at your local independent bookstore, Powell’s, or your local library.
Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down, published in 2010 by Little, Brown and Company, Hatchett Book Group
Ages: 6 and up
Grades: 1 and up
“My family came here from far away . . . because they dreamed of more,” begins the photojournalistic story documenting the experience of American immigrants. In Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land, John Coy’s text accompanies Wing Young Huie’s photography as the two work together to explore the varied and diverse life and experience of immigrants of America.
The photographs show immigrants at work, with their families, communities, both young and old. The photographs are diverse in the communities and experiences represented. What a wonderful book to share how unique and yet similar we all are. Let’s look for similarities and compassion rather than excluding each other and closing our borders.
The end of the book features each contributor’s own immigrant experience either personally or within their family history. John Coy’s family is from Poland, Bavaria, Ireland, and Scotland. His great grandparents were both born in Bavaria, but met in Minnesota in the 19th century. Wing Young Huie, who is the only one of his siblings born in America, is a first generation Chinese American. Wing has been documenting the immigrant experience throughout his photography career, and you can see more of his photography on his professional website.
To get a copy of Their Great Gift, check you local bookstore, Powell’s, or your local library.
I recently read Sarah Glidden’s nonfiction comic, Rolling Blackouts, published by Drawn & Quarterly in 2016, and it is one my favorite books this year. Glidden travelled through Turkey, Iraq, and Syria in 2011 along with two friends, reporters who had founded a journalism non-profit, and a Marine Iraqi War Veteran. Glidden documented their experience in beautiful watercolors and inked cartoon panels. The topics that Rolling Blackouts explores covers everything from the middle east refugee crisis, the rebuilding or lack of rebuilding in middle eastern cities, the difficulties immigrants and refugees have experienced from their displacement, as well as how journalism and reporting fits in with all of it. Glidden’s traveling companions and journalists are as much her subjects as the Iraqi refugees they meet in their travels. What I thought was unique about Rolling Blackouts was the documentation of the journalist experience— what kind of story her companions were hoping to find, what kind of experience they had, and how that informed their perspective and either the stories they told or hoped to tell.
In a time when journalistic integrity is constantly attacked and citizens are having difficulty distinguishing between fake news and real news, or even recognizing bias in the news they read, it’s an important topic to investigate— who’s telling the story, how are they getting their information, is there a different perspective? are views represented from differing sides, are there different sides to tell? So many of these ideas are explored by the reporters that Glidden travels with.
Glidden manages to capture so much in Rolling Blackouts. The quality of life or lack there of, the daily habits and experiences they have. The reader becomes a fly on the wall in the rooms where Sarah’s companions interview people about their experiences and begin to record and create a narrative about Iraqi refugees and the displacement the war has caused and the repercussions. Whether Glidden recorded conversations and interviews with UN employees, volunteers, refugees, or their taxi drivers, each bit of information adds to a more complete and diverse perspective. The people interviewed have had their lives forever altered, and it’s something that Americans need to read. These stories are also a part of the American war on terror. These are part of the repercussions to distant wars that we’ve been fighting for so long.
You can find a copy of Rolling Blackouts at your local independent bookstore, Powell’s, and your local library.
I read Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: an Unnatural History in June of 2014, and I think about it more often than any other book I’ve read in the last two years. The Sixth Extinction explores the five mass extinctions in earth’s history, and the man-made sixth extinction currently underway.
Kolbert builds off the research from scientists across different practices, often following them into the research field whether they’re researching the mysterious deaths of bats, the disappearing Panamanian golden frog, or the Great Barrier Reef. Despite the immense amount of scientific research and scientific subject, this book is written for the general reader. I am not a scientist, nor do I understand or speak in a scientific jargon– and Elizabeth Kolbert doesn’t write in one. She makes a case for our natural world illuminating the destruction currently happening and using Earth’s brutal history as a framework.
It’s a horrifying history and the scariest book I’ve read.
The Sixth Extinction: an Unnatural History was the 2015 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. It’s an incredible book that changed the way I think about the world, what my role is in this destruction, and what I can do to change it.
You can buy a copy of The Sixth Extinction here and here, or borrow it from your local library here.