Categories
Comics History

Read We Hereby Refuse

Read WE HEREBY REFUSE: Japanese American Resistance to Warti…

Three voices. Three acts of defiance. One mass injustice.

The story of camp as you’ve never seen it before. Japanese Americans complied when evicted from their homes in World War II — but many refused to submit to imprisonment in American concentration camps without a fight.

In this groundbreaking graphic novel, meet:

— JIM AKUTSU, the inspiration for John Okada’s No-No Boy, who refuses to be drafted from the camp at Minidoka when classified as a non-citizen, an enemy alien;

— HIROSHI KASHIWAGI, who resists government pressure to sign a loyalty oath at Tule Lake, but yields to family pressure to renounce his U.S. citizenship; and

— MITSUYE ENDO, a reluctant recruit to a lawsuit contesting her imprisonment, who refuses a chance to leave the camp at Topaz so that her case could reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

Based upon painstaking research, We Hereby Refuse presents an original vision of America’s past with disturbing links to the American present.

Overall this was an effective and moving history. It was interesting to trace the path of three different forms of resistance. This expands on what I learned in Takei’s They Called Us Enemy.

Jim Akutsu’s story was the most fleshed out, followed by Hiroshi Kashiwagi’s. His could have used a bit more clarity, and I would have liked more on Mitsuye Endo.

Two artists use significantly different art styles to illustrate the stories. Though the art in Kashiwagi’s segment looked rough and sketchy, I did like it for the tone. I’m not sure it was complementary to the more traditional art style for the other two segments. Perhaps a third art style might have pulled the distinctive styles together better?

Categories
Comics Memoir

Read Ducks

Read Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands

Before there was Kate Beaton, New York Times bestselling cartoonist of Hark A Vagrant fame, there was Katie Beaton of the Cape Breton Beatons, specifically Mabou, a tight-knit seaside community where the lobster is as abundant as beaches, fiddles, and Gaelic folk songs. After university, Beaton heads out west to take advantage of Alberta’s oil rush, part of the long tradition of East Coasters who seek gainful employment elsewhere when they can’t find it in the homeland they love so much. With the singular goal of paying off her student loans, what the journey will actually cost Beaton will be far more than she anticipates.

Arriving in Fort McMurray, Beaton finds work in the lucrative camps owned and operated by the world’s largest oil companies. Being one of the few women among thousands of men, the culture shock is palpable. It does not hit home until she moves to a spartan, isolated worksite for higher pay. She encounters the harsh reality of life in the oil sands where trauma is an everyday occurrence yet never discussed. Her wounds may never heal.

Beaton’s natural cartooning prowess is on full display as she draws colossal machinery and mammoth vehicles set against a sublime Albertan backdrop of wildlife, Northern Lights, and Rocky Mountains. Her first full-length graphic narrative, Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands is an untold story of Canada: a country that prides itself on its egalitarian ethos and natural beauty while simultaneously exploiting both the riches of its land and the humanity of its people.

A powerful memoir about a complex subject that she carries complicated feelings about. She handles the telling with compassion and sensitivity despite the terrible experiences she endured. I’m of an age with her and though I never went through anything remotely close to that bad, and I didn’t have the albatross of student loans, it pisses me off that the first years after college (at least in the mid-2000s) seem to be universally wearing and exploitative, yet we all know we have to put up with it. Why does our society have to work this way? There’s a cathartic moment towards the end where she tells truth to power even though it makes no real change; the companies care as little for the impact on their workers as they do the ducks and the First Nations people downstream. Everything is done in the name of deniability and preventing liability.

Categories
Art and Design Comics

Read Eileen Gray: A House Under the Sun

Read Eileen Gray

In 1924, work began in earnest on a small villa by the sea in the south of France. Nearly a century later, this structure is a design milestone. Meet Eileen Gray, the woman behind the E-1027 house and a pioneer of the Modern Movement in architecture. Like so many gifted female artists and designers of her time, Eileen Gray’s story has been eclipsed by the men with whom she collaborated. Dzierzawska’s exquisite visuals bring to life the tale of a young Irish designer whose work and life came to bloom during the ‘Annees Folles’ of early 20th century Paris.

I liked the art but didn’t understand why the house is so special or why it was so offensive to have Le Corbusier’s murals added. Though the book is titled after the house, it’s more of a general biography.

Her Bibendum chair is cool looking.

“The poverty of modern architecture stems from a lack of sensuality.”
Categories
Art and Design Comics Mental Health

Read Camouflage

Read Camouflage

Autism in women and girls is still not widely understood, and is often misrepresented or even overlooked. This graphic novel offers an engaging and accessible insight into the lives and minds of autistic women, using real-life case studies.

The charming illustrations lead readers on a visual journey of how women on the spectrum experience everyday life, from metaphors and masking in social situations, to friendships and relationships and the role of special interests.

Fun, sensitive and informative, this is a fantastic resource for anyone who wishes to understand how gender affects autism, and how to create safer supportive and more accessible environments for women on the spectrum.

Like the color palette with teals and pinks. The cover illustration is especially nice. I liked the use of textures though text didn’t read well over halftones.

Very slender volume with simple explanations, suitable for teens and pre-teens. Mostly info I knew already. I did like how they broke down the main elements of the autistic experience for women:

  1. “You’re not autistic”
  2. Pretending to be normal
  3. Growing from passive to assertive
  4. Special interest based identity

Categories
Activism Comics History

Read On Tyranny – Graphic Edition

Read On Tyranny: Graphic Edition

A graphic edition of historian Timothy Snyder’s bestselling book of lessons for surviving and resisting America’s arc toward authoritarianism, featuring the visual storytelling talents of renowned illustrator Nora Krug.

Timothy Snyder’s New York Times bestseller On Tyranny uses the darkest moments in twentieth-century history, from Nazism to Communism, to teach twenty lessons on resisting modern-day authoritarianism. Among the twenty include a warning to be aware of how symbols used today could affect tomorrow; an urgent reminder to research everything for yourself and to the fullest extent; a point to use personalized and individualized speech rather than cliched phrases for the sake of mass appeal; and more.

In this graphic edition, Nora Krug draws from her highly inventive art style in Belonging–at once a graphic memoir, collage-style scrapbook, historical narrative, and trove of memories–to breathe new life, color, and power into Snyder’s riveting historical references, turning a quick-read pocket guide of lessons into a visually striking rumination. In a time of great uncertainty and instability, this edition of On Tyranny emphasizes the importance of being active, conscious, and deliberate participants in resistance.

Chapter one title page from On Tyranny, with an illustration and a few explanatory sentences that regular people tend to give authoritarians what they want without even needing to be asked
Do not obey in advance.

Continuing my education in resistance, I picked up the graphic edition of On Tyranny. I’m not sure how much has changed from the prose edition, but this acknowledges the pandemic and has a lot to say about the previous president and his tactics. We are deeper down the path of totalitarianism than any American who thinks democracy is a foundational value wants to believe. History has shown the final tipping point can happen extremely quickly.

On a meta level, this is the format I want philosophical works: short and graphic. Another graphic non-fiction work I particularly enjoyed this year was Seek You. Using a graphic format forces the author to pare down to the most essential information, and find the simplest, briefest way to explain their point. Well-chosen photographs and graphics illuminate the message, adding emotion, visual evidence, and tangible memory markers for me to tie new ideas to. I’d say mixed success in the design and illustration of this particular work — some readability challenges in the placement of words.

page from graphic version of On Tyranny showing a collage piece of a 'storm trooper' style fighter, face composed of folded paper and black body adorned with skeletal remains of dead clover
For violence to transform not just the atmosphere but also the system, the emotions of rallies and the ideology of exclusion have to incorporated into the training of armed guards. These first challenge the police and military, then penetrate the police and military, and finally transform the police and military.