Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Graphic Novel Review: "Strange Fruit: Uncelebrated Naratives from Black History" by Joel Christian Gill

When I was looking for my next graphic novel to review on goodreads the big ol' font on this cover caught my eye, along with it's unusual name. What does fruit have to do with black history? And then I saw that the title comes from an anti-racism song by Billie Holiday that talks about how black victims of lynching look like strange fruit hanging from trees., that's awful to think about. I've linked the song below, also Billie has skills in case you haven't heard her before. Worth a listen on multiple levels!

So, this book talks about 9 stories that you probably haven't heard before. Myself I had heard of two of these men. I''d heard of Henry "Box" Brown from an episode of The Memory Palace - a favorite podcast of mine, and I'd heard of Bass Reeves from an episode of Drunk History. A tv show with a funny premise, but that I've actually learned a lot from. Reading this book you will hear about a chess champion, a cyclist, the nation's first integrated school and more!

I have only 2 gripes, and they are small. One, a lot of times the font is hard to read. It's either teeny tiny or very scripty so maybe not a good book to read on a moving vehicle or in the dark. My other gripe is that they left a lot out of the Box Brown episode. They detail very well his escape from slavery in a small, mailed box but they tell you less about what happens afterward. I feel like they also imply that he escaped and bought his wife and 3 children who were still in slavery as soon as he could but he actually went on a speaking tour and married a white woman in Great Britain and started a new family......I'm sure it comes down to a) limited pages to devote to each story and b) I think the focus is supposed to be on the daring escape (though with things like that I'm always more interested in how you cope AFTER something like that).

A good read, I learned a lot and I will keep my eyes peeled for more in the series.


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