Rebecca Hall doing research for her dissertation projection. Two, it is an account of the facts of women's roles in slave revolts. Three, it contains a number of fictionalized accounts of the events concerning slave revolts, as very often there are no concrete records extent concerning women's involvement in them. Four, it is an exploration of how the institution of slavery still haunts and informs contemporary society. Five, it is enterprise that demonstrates how history gets defined and then redefined, and how this process has palpable effects on us all, whether acknowledged or not. It's a tour de force graphic novel that packs a wallop intellectually, aesthetically, and emotionally.Hugo Martinez aptly emanates a rawness that highlights the horrific and dehumanizing social conditions depicted throughout the book. It is a difficult read in many ways, as it does not let anyone off the hook for their various roles in either perpetuating or trying to ignore grave injustices carried out over centuries. And the images touch many a nerve along the way.
In the end, I was amazed by the scope of this book. As an academic, I can appreciate the great effort and distress involved in doing this research and creating this account. As a reader, I was moved by the historical accounts and sheer horror of the depraved acts of slavery and racism. I was also moved by the bravery and perseverance of people who were enslaved and how they contended against their captors. As a citizen, I was distressed by how public institutions, including records clerks and companies like Lloyd's of London work to obscure and even protect past misdeeds. Additionally, I was struck by how Hall's background as a lawyer also informed insights into how the institution of slavery stripped people of basic humanity through legal codes. As a researcher, I can also appreciate just how frustrating it could be to delve into a topic where little to no historical record exists. This absence should be galling to us all in the present day.
Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts is an important, modern classic that belongs on library and classroom shelves as well as on syllabi. I am so glad that one of the students in the graphic novels class I am currently teaching selected it. I feel everyone should read it.
All of the reviews I have read of this book have been glowing. In a starred entry, Kirkus Reviews summed it up as "an urgent, brilliant work of historical excavation." Etelka Lehoczky called it a "remarkable blend of passion and fact, action and reflection," and added that "Wake sets a new standard for illustrating history." In a detailed and riveting review Jordan Alexander Stein wrote, "It pushes past the limits of what’s possible, to tell us a story that wasn’t but now can be."