Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Silence of Our Friends

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

These words from the late Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are used in the title of this gripping graphic novel. It is a memoir set in 1967 in Houston, Texas during a contentious time. Author Mark Long lived in a white suburb at the time, and his father was a news reporter for a local television station who endeavored to cover heated, often violent civil rights protests. During one such protest a policeman is shot and killed and 5 seemingly innocent black college students are arrested and tried with murder.

Racist thought was prevalent everywhere at the time, it seems, in suburban and urban neighborhoods as well as in the TV station management. They show that everyone, regardless of what side of town they live in, deals with racist thoughts and seems afraid, suspicious, and ready to react. Mark's father tries to extend a hand of friendship to a local black writer/professor, but easy answers and solutions do not follow.

This graphic novel is a collaboration between Mark Long, Jim Demonakos, and artist Nate Powell. Long is a video game designer and author who is known for his work for Zombie Studios and the Shrapnel series of graphic novels. Demonakos speaks about his work in this interview, and he is the Convention Director of Seattle's Emerald City Comicon, founder of The Comic Stop retail chain, and songwriting half of the nerd rock band Kirby Krackle. Nate Powell is an Eisner Award winning artist and writer whose Swallow Me Whole won Best New Graphic Novel in 2009.

Thus far, this book has been very well reviewed. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review and wrote, "This graphic novel presents an engrossing narrative about race in America, while honestly dealing with a host of other real-world issues, including familial relationships, friendship, dependency, “other”-ness, and perhaps most importantly, the search for common ground." Librarian Jen Bigheart commented on Powell's excellent, evocative artwork and wrote that after reading the book she "was a little blown away for a few minutes."

There are multiple previews of this book available online. One is from Publishers Weekly. Another is at the book's official website. The book's publisher First Second provides another here.

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