Saturday, February 24, 2018

March - Book 2

The 2nd book in Congressman John Lewis's trilogy on the civil rights movement focuses on the period of time from November, 1960 to August 28, 1963 when Dr. Martin Luther King made his famous "I Have a Dream" at the March on Washington, DC.  Rep. Lewis also spoke at that event.  As with Book 1, the story alternated between the 1960s and the Obama inauguration.

Book 2 did not seem to me to be as dramatic as Book 1.  However, some pretty dramatic events took place here.  The Freedom Rides, the killing of 3 Freedom Riders by law enforcement officers/KKK and the beginning of the push for a Voting Rights Act are depicted.  For the uninitiated the freedom rides were organized to protest a U.S. Supreme Court opinion in Boynton vs. Virginia where segregation on buses was upheld by the Court.

I am looking forward to reading Book 3 which won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature in 2016.

Burma Chronicles

Somehow I missed reading one of Guy Delisle's travelogues, his 2008 Burma Chronicles. DeLisle has traveled throughout Asia with his wife who works for Doctors Without Borders.  He has written 4 travelogues from his travels with her.

In Burma Chronicles DeLisle manages to describe the daily struggles of life in a dictatorship without being political with his use of minimalist black and white drawings and his affiliative type of humor.  Each chapter addresses a different experience DeLisle had.  Some of these experiences include discovering a Time magazine that had been censored by articles being cut out of pages, finding the Rangoon neighborhood where the Army officers live and the supply of electricity and water is plentiful, and being prevented by armed soldiers from walking past Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi's home.

This is a serious book written in a humorous fashion but the author gets his point across.  If you haven't read any of the travelogues, Pyongyang, Jerusalem, Shenzen, and Burma Chronicles, I encourage you to read them.  For most of these places, society has not changed since the books were published so they should still be timely. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

March - Book 1

Georgia Congressman John Lewis wrote this book in 2013 with one of his staffers Andrew Aydin.  Nate Powell was the illustrator.  The book presents the beginning of Lewis's life as well as the beginning of the civil rights movement in the U. S.

Lewis grew up in Troy, Alabama hoping to be a preacher.  A trip one summer with an uncle to visit relatives in Ohio opened his eyes to the inequalities between the white and black races in the American South.  He was shocked to find his Ohio relatives living in a home in between 2 white families.  When he returned home he had some trouble concentrating on his studies and in his free time was pouring over newspapers and listening to radio reports.  It was on one of these radio stations that he first heard a sermon by MLK, Jr. that hit him like a bolt of lightening.  MLK had applied the principles of the church to what was happening in the world at that time.  It was called the social gospel.

Lewis wanted to attend Troy State University near his home but blacks were not admitted there.  He wrote MLK about it and after being invited to meet with him, Lewis traveled to meet MLK where they discussed his parents  suing the school on his behalf because he was a minor.  His parents declined due to the threats and terror the family and neighbors would have to endure if they sued.

After beginning college Lewis participated in sit-ins at lunch counters in Nashville, TN. At first the sit-ins involved  a group of blacks entering a white only store and asking to be served. They would leave when told that colored people were not served there. Later the group decided to not leave until they were arrested upon which another group took their place. The groups prepared themselves for abuse to be heaped upon them by practising being "insulted" by white people.  They wanted to be able to handle the abuse with dignity.

Folks.  This is history being told in an easy way for the younger generation to learn about how the civil rights movement got started.  Whoever came up with the idea to write this as a graphic novel is a genius.  No kid wants to read a political tome but a comic is another story.

I personally met John Lewis at a fundraiser that an attorney I worked for in Atlanta sponsored for him at the law firm we worked at during his campaign for his first term in Congress. I was quite impressed with Mr. Lewis.  He was incredibly grateful for the opportunity to speak at our firm.  I had never met a grateful politician before, and none since, and I have now been in politics for 42 years. He had something inside him that was compelling to me.  I now know that I recognized a moral rectitude in him.  He is truly a national treasure.

I already have purchased books 2 and 3 in the March series and will be reading them next.

Poppies of Iraq

This 2017 book written by Brigitte Findakly and illustrated by her husband Lewis Trondheim is a memoir of Findakly's life growing up in Iraq.  Findakly had a better than average life in Iraq as her father was a dentist and they could afford private schools and vacations in France where her mother emigrated to Iraq from.  The family was unique because they were Orthodox Christians in a Muslim country. 

With her father being asked to pay excessive taxes that he could not afford to pay, he decided to leave Iraq for France.  His cover story for the government was that he needed training on how to do dental implants.  The training was approved and the family left with no intention of returning until things improved in Iraq.  I believe the author was about 18 years old at this time.  However, this was 1979.  The Iran-Iraq War followed from 1980 until 1989, the Gulf War in 1990, and the second Gulf War in 2003.  Her father never expected his exile to be that long.

The family was not political unless they had to be and when her father could no longer support Saddam Hussein's government he willingly gave up his government pension and all hope of ever returning to Iraq.  The author, however, made several trips back to Iraq over the years and saw her relatives homes, possessions and dreams becoming more and more shattered.  Eventually they all left by 2016, their homeland no longer recognizable.

While the family did not suffer much religious prejudice while the author lived there, as Saddam Hussein's government took hold her cousins suffered persecution and developed Islamaphobia.  It seems to me though that the author's mother kept her indoors at certain times so perhaps there was some prejudice happening to them.

Poppies in Iraq is an informative graphic memoir on life in Iraq from 1950 through the present time.  The title comes from an archeological site in Nimrod where the author used to play as a child.  Poppies were prevalent there.

Brew Harder

Dan Dougherty's 2nd book in his Beardo series is Brew Harder. At this point Beardo, an art school graduate, has worked as a barista for 5 years.  He met his girlfriend at the coffee house and together with his  roommate all 3 of them live in Beardo's condo.  Struggling to make the mortgage payment with reduced hours at the coffeehouse, Beardo joins a cover band to earn a few extra bucks.  His girlfriend drops the not so occasional hint that she would like an engagement ring but Beardo has been resistant.  Or has he?  You will have to read the book to find out!

After reading The Art Degree Guarantee I knew that I would have to get the sequel.  Brew Harder does not disappoint.  It is hilarious.  From the wacky customers to the weird co-workers the characters provide a ton of humor. The comic strip panels are colorful which is always a plus for me. 

Beardo is my favorite comic series to date and I will be buying books 3 through 6 ASAP.  

Monday, January 15, 2018

New Comic Books From Amazon

I just received delivery of my January Amazon order this morning; all graphic novels this time.  Georgia Congressman John Lewis' 3 part March series on the civil rights movement came just in time for MLK Day today.  I should have started reading with that series given that I have the day off of work for the MLK holiday but I went straight for Beardo.  I love that series by Dan Dougherty.  Forgive my amateur photos of my new books with the Christmas afghan background.  Nothing formal today. I am feeling a little kitschy.

Monday, January 1, 2018

My Top 10 Books of 2017

Below is a list of the best books that I read in 2017.  Note that they may not have been published in 2017 but were my favorite reads of the year.

10.  The Empress of Bright Moon by Weina Dai Randel; historical fiction

9.  Butcher Bird by S. D. Sykes; historical fiction

8.  Shelter by Jung Yun; family saga

7.  Pachinko by Min Jin Lee; family saga, historical fiction

6.  A Game for Swallows by Zeina Abirached; graphic memoir, graphic novel

5.  I Remember Beirut by Zeina Abirached; graphic memoir, graphic novel

4.  Rolling Blackouts Dispatches From Turkey, Syria and Iraq by Sarah Glidden; reportage comic, graphic novel

3. Coffin Road by Peter May; mystery

2.  Dead Cold Brew by Cleo Coyle; cozy mystery

1.  The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer; historical fiction