graphic novel

REVIEW: They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott and Harmony Becker

In 1942, at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, every person of Japanese descent on the west coast was rounded up and shipped to one of ten “relocation centers,” hundreds or thousands of miles from home, where they would be held for years under armed guard. They Called Us Enemy is Takei’s firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire, the joys and terrors of growing up under legalised racism, his mother’s hard choices, his father’s faith in democracy, and the way those experiences planted the seeds for his astonishing future.

It sounds cliché to say reading They Called Us Enemy was a rollercoaster of emotions, but it was. It was infuriating to hear about some of the politicians and lawyers who set in motion the anti-Japanese sentiment have gone onto having very successful careers. It was sad to see what George’s parents went through and how they struggled to keep their family together and to do the best thing for them all. And it was wonderful to see that hope can survive in even the most terrible of circumstances, and how there are people who will help others even though they themselves may get hurt. I felt myself tear up multiple times reading They Called Us Enemy. Some tears were due to sadness and frustration that people were treated like this (and are still being treated like this) while other tears were of the joy of seeing George Takei meet with Gene Roddenberry and how Star Trek really had such a positive impact on George and the world.

They Called Us Enemy does a great job of showing both how a child would deal with having to leave their home and live in confined spaces with strict rules, and how adults would be scared because they have a better understanding over what is happening to them. There’s the childlike innocence about a lot of George’s experience, at least to begin with in some camps where they were obviously not pleasant but not as harsh as their later experiences.

I learnt so much about the internment of Japanese Americans from this book. I first heard about this event in history through following George Takei on Twitter, he said something about it that got me googling and I learnt about something I’d never heard of before when I was in my early twenties. A lot of quotes and moments in They Called Us Enemy will stick with me, but one that really stood out was: “That remains part of the problem – that we don’t know the unpleasant aspects of American history and therefore we don’t learn the lesson those chapters have to teach us. So we repeat them over and over again.”

I suppose I have the “excuse” of being British and growing up in the UK that I didn’t learn bout this part of American history in school, in fact in History class we barely touched on the attack on Pearl Harbour and it’s just the catalyst for America joining the war. Naturally all our history is UK-focused. But still, as George Takei says, it’s important to know our history – both the good and the bad – so we don’t make the same mistakes again.

They Called Us Enemy is an important and impactful book but it’s also a compelling story with wonderful art that perfectly captures the innocence of childhood. They Called Us Enemy is definitely a book I’d recommend to anyone, whether they were a fan of George Takei or not. His childhood is, unfortunately, the childhood of tens of thousands Japanese Americans and it’s a story of 120,000 people that must be heard. 5/5.

READ THE WORLD – Peru: City of Clowns by Daniel Alarcón and Sheila Alvarado

Oscar “Chino” Uribe is a young Peruvian journalist and after the death of his philandering father, he must confront the idea of his father’s other family. While deals with his grief Chico’s latest assignment is to chronicle the life of the street clowns who populate the vibrant and violent city streets of Lima and while doing so he becomes drawn into their haunting yet fantastical world.

City of Clowns was originally a short story by Alarcón and the he and Alvarado collaborated to turn it into a short graphic novel with striking black and white illustrations. How the illustrations and the text is set out on the pages, with it not being afraid to leave a lot of negative space, really puts across how Chico is feeling. There’s black pages and isolated figures when it comes to Chico, but with the clowns it’s often a mixture of lively figures with melancholy faces.

After his father dies he and his mother are suddenly introduced to his father’s mistress Carmela and their sons, Chico’s half-brothers. His mother takes everything in her stride and the relationship she appears to form with Carmela is incomprehensible to Chico, further isolating him as he refuses to acknowledge his emotions.

City of Clowns is a interesting look at grief, emotions and identity. As Chico learns more about the clowns, he admires the way they are hiding behind a mask, that people pay them little attention and they can be whoever they want to be when they perform.

City of Clowns is a quick read but a memorable one. The writing is simple yet eloquent while the illustrations convey so much emotion. 4/5.

MINI COMIC REVIEWS: Fun Home, Power Man and Iron Fist Vol. 1 and Filmish

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

This is a graphic novel memoir from Alison Bechdel (yes, she’s the woman who the Bechdel test is named after) about her childhood and adolescence living in her family’s Victorian home with her rather eccentric family. The memoir is mostly about Bechdel and her relationship with her father, which was both very distant and unusual, neither of them understanding one another until she came out as a lesbian, and learning from her mother that her father was a closeted homosexual.

Fun Home isn’t a linear story, with scenes being revisited when you have been given new information. It’s also both funny and farcical at types when Bechdel recounts her dysfunctional family life. I liked the moments when Bechdel looked back on different events with hindsight, you got to see what the teenage her thought at the time and her own ideas of what really happened now she’s older.

Fun Home features a lot of themes including sexuality, gender roles (Alison preferred to wear “men’s clothes” from a young age) suicide and emotional abuse. It’s an interesting and quick read but I never really felled compelled to keep reading. 3/5.

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Get Graphic Readathon TBR

Guess what? There’s another readathon I’m going to try and take part in! This one is the Get Graphic Readathon and it’s a weekend-long readathon that’s focused on reading things like comics, graphic novels and manga – basically anything that’s illustrated. The readathon is the brainchild of BOOKadoodles, Whatskappening and PerpetualPages on YouTube and you can follow all the fun of the readathon on the #GetGraphic Twitter account. The Get Graphic Readathon starts Friday 6th October at 5pm wherever you are in the world and ends at midnight on Sunday 8th October in your time zone.

Like many a readathon there’s some challenges you can try and complete while you read as many illustrated books as possible.

Challenges:
1. Read from a new-to-you series
2. Read two instalments of the same series
3. Read a work over 300 pages
4. Read a work with black and white art
5. Read a work picked out by a friend
6. Read at least 5 works

I always base my TBR on the challenges so here we go.

For a new-to-me series I’ve chosen Power Man and Iron Fist Vol. 1: The Boys are Back in Town by David Walker and Sanford Greene. After binge-watching The Defenders the day it was released, I fell in love with the dynamic between Luke Cage and Danny Rand and its got so much potential in the Netflix series. So, I went to Twitter and asked where I should start reading when it comes to the comics and this is what was recommended to me – I’m looking forward to learning more about these characters.

The two instalments of the same series will be Runaways The Complete Collection Volume Three and Four by Brian K. Vaughn and many, many others. These will also work for the work over 300 pages as they are both around 400-500 pages. If I think I’m only going to read one of The Runaways volumes during the weekend, I’ve also got Saga Volume Six and Seven by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples for the read two instalments of the same series challenge.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel will be my read for the “work with black and white art” challenge and I’m currently running a Twitter poll to decide what I’ll read for the “work picked out by a friend” challenge so feel free to go and vote on that.

Potentially I could complete all six challenges and read at least five works, will it happen though? Who knows! On Saturday I am busy, travelling up to London and back to see a couple of films at the London Film Festival, but Sunday I could spend a lot of time reading.

Are you going to take part in the Get Graphic readathon? I think it’s a great way to get some books off my TBR and I haven’t read my comics for a while.

TOP 5 WEDNESDAY: Favourite Non-Written Novels

Top 5 Wednesday is a great feature created by GingerReadsLainey and hosted by ThoughtsonTomes. To find out more about Top 5 Wednesday and the upcoming topics, check out its Goodreads page. This week it’s all about your favourite non-traditional written books, so graphic novels, comics, manga, audiobooks and so on and so forth. So, this week I’m writing about my favourite graphic novels/trade paper backs (because I don’t live near a comic store so it’s easier to read the volumes) and by pure chance they are all from different publishers. In no particular order they are…

march-book-oneMarch by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell
This graphic novel trilogy was pretty much the first thing I read this year and it’s my new favourite thing ever. It’s all about the Civil Rights Movement in America and it’s told through John Lewis’s eyes, what protests he was involved in, who he knew and all the hardships and successes. It is such a powerful and important graphic novel series, the sort of thing everyone should read.

 

 

fiveghosts vol1Five Ghosts by Frank J. Barbiere and Chris Mooneyham
Five Ghosts has a very Indiana Jones feel, especially as the main character is an archaeologist who searches for weird mystical artefacts. Oh, and he also happens to have a stone stuck in his chest that gives him the power of five different ghosts. The thing about Five Ghosts I really love is the art style, it’s like those old pulp fiction stories and it can be creepy and dynamic, especially when the ghosts make an appearance.

 

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READ THE WORLD – USA: March Trilogy by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

march-trilogy-john-lewisMarch is a graphic novel memoir trilogy about the American Civil Rights Movement told from the perspective of John Lewis, a civil rights leader then and now a US Congressman. It charters his early life, the Nashville sit-in movement, the fight for desegregation and actual voting rights and the Selma to Montgomery marches. It follows the successes and the failures and shows the behind the scenes moments of many big events you might have only seen photos of or read about in school.

March is an incredible graphic novel series. It’s bookended by President Obama’s inauguration on 20th January 2009 and has flashbacks to that day throughout the trilogy – it truly highlights how far the Civil Rights Movement has come, but also how much there’s left to improve. It’s something I wasn’t expecting but it was a really lovely touch.

John Lewis tells his story and his experiences in the Civil Rights movement with a lot of honesty. He says what he thinks about people like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, JFK, Robert Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson as well as many other people that may not be as well-known names. He says the good and the bad and doesn’t lie if he had opposing views to someone else, even if it was another of the “Big Six” Civil Rights Leaders. The thing that got me about Lewis was, he never seems to give up hope in people and that they have the capacity to change their views. He sees it happen and is nearly always positive that the protests he, and so many other people, are a part of will bring a better future. It’s truly admirable.

I found March tough to read some times. The first two books I read in the same day but the third one took me longer. I’d often get frustrated with how people were so blind and ignorant and what black people in America had to go through in the sixties so I’d have to put it down for a while before carrying on reading. Also, each book was longer than the one before it which probably contributed to how long it took me to read them. That being said, the series benefits when you read each book one after the other as they are all a part of a bigger and wider story.

The art in March is great because it’s all black and white which really helps add to the emotion of some of the situations, especially when there’s a single page or a double page of artwork. I think this memoir of the Civil Rights Movement works so well in graphic novel form because you can see people’s reactions to things or you can see someone get hit by the police and it makes it more real and tangible.

March is an important and brilliant read. The art works so well with the story and it’s the kind of story that everyone one can read, no matter their age. If you have an interest in African-American history, or just American history in general, then I highly recommend March5/5.

REVIEW: The Trouble with Women by Jacky Fleming

trouble-with-womenThe Trouble with Women is a graphic novel looking at women’s role in history – or lack thereof. It questions why we only ever learnt about three women at school and whether or not women can be geniuses.

The Trouble with Women is really funny. Thanks to the observational drawings and the sharp wit, it’s a very smart and different take on women in history. There are so many great lines like, “In the Olden Days there were no women which is why you don’t come across them in history lessons at school” and “For a long time there were no black women.” It’s kind of brutally honest as it looks at the terrible attitude men had towards women and their intelligence. It is sad that the stereotypes that if women become too smart and educated they’ll become unattractive to men are still prevalent today in some shape and form.

The Trouble with Women features many women from different fields – many of which I hadn’t heard of before. There’s women like Marie Currie, Annie Oakley and Jane Austin who are obviously very well-known but it also talks about women like Phillis Wheatley, Elisa Grier and Emmy Noether who I had never heard of before. I’ve made a note of all the women featured who I know very little or nothing about so I can read up on them later. All the women featured were scorned or dismissed by men with them often being surprised by the women’s skill or attention to detail.

The Trouble with Women makes you think about women’s role in history and how they were seen by society and how it was very difficult to progress in any field without being judged by men and society as a whole. It’s unfortunate that some still believe women are incapable of making any achievements whether in science or the arts, but there’s still hope. A line that I absolute love and can’t reiterate how important it is, is “Women have been retrieving each other from the Dustbin of History for several thousand years now.” Women in history are being rediscovered by women of today and women helping other women, in whatever way, is a very important thing indeed.

The Trouble with Women is a short original book that looks at history in a different way. I wish it was longer and I’ll definitely be looking into Jacky Fleming’s other comics and writing. 4/5.