A surprisingly bland treatment from a passionate writer and American citizen.

WHAT UNITES US

THE GRAPHIC NOVEL

A graphic-history treatment of the newsman’s collection of essays on patriotism.

As the longtime anchor of the CBS Evening News and host of 48 Hours, Rather spent decades reporting the news as well as intoning pronouncements on the state of the nation, a role that his cartoon self fulfills here. In the full-page panel that ends the book—featuring the author walking through a billowing American flag—he proclaims, “I believe in a wide and expansive vision of our national destiny. And I believe in all of you to help make it a reality. Courage.” It’s difficult to figure out what to make of this graphic treatment, since it doesn’t appear to be targeting a younger readership than the original volume of text, and the illustrations aren’t as dynamic as one might expect from the publisher of Eddie Campbell, Jessica Abel, Gene Luen Yang, Joann Sfar, and others. Instead of the sweep of history carrying the narrator along, Rather is often just standing there, talking and observing. The most effectively illustrated passages are more personal, with young “Danny” coming of age in hardscrabble Texas in a family that imparted strong moral values. Yet his education has been a lifelong process, and he has grown to acknowledge the blinders of those times: how the history he learned was so heavily focused on White male achievements and how diversities of race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation were marginalized, even invisible. The author celebrates patriotism in the embrace of such diversity, and he remains relentlessly hopeful about the country he loves as a “land of wonder, awe, and optimism.” However, he is also candid about our myriad divisions on education, environmentalism, social issues, and more. The six chapters have a scattershot quality, skipping around instead of developing the arguments that he built in the original essays.

A surprisingly bland treatment from a passionate writer and American citizen.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-23994-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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An accessible, informative journey through complex issues during turbulent times.

WELCOME TO THE NEW WORLD

Immersion journalism in the form of a graphic narrative following a Syrian family on their immigration to America.

Originally published as a 22-part series in the New York Times that garnered a Pulitzer for editorial cartooning, the story of the Aldabaan family—first in exile in Jordan and then in New Haven, Connecticut—holds together well as a full-length book. Halpern and Sloan, who spent more than three years with the Aldabaans, movingly explore the family’s significant obstacles, paying special attention to teenage son Naji, whose desire for the ideal of the American dream was the strongest. While not minimizing the harshness of the repression that led them to journey to the U.S.—or the challenges they encountered after they arrived—the focus on the day-by-day adjustment of a typical teenager makes the narrative refreshingly tangible and free of political polemic. Still, the family arrived at New York’s JFK airport during extraordinarily political times: Nov. 8, 2016, the day that Donald Trump was elected. The plan had been for the entire extended family to move, but some had traveled while others awaited approval, a process that was hampered by Trump’s travel ban. The Aldabaans encountered the daunting odds that many immigrants face: find shelter and employment, become self-sustaining quickly, learn English, and adjust to a new culture and climate (Naji learned to shovel snow, which he had never seen). They also received anonymous death threats, and Naji wanted to buy a gun for protection. He asked himself, “Was this the great future you were talking about back in Jordan?” Yet with the assistance of selfless volunteers and a community of fellow immigrants, the Aldabaans persevered. The epilogue provides explanatory context and where-are-they-now accounts, and Sloan’s streamlined, uncluttered illustrations nicely complement the text, consistently emphasizing the humanity of each person.

An accessible, informative journey through complex issues during turbulent times.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-30559-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Subtle, provocative, and sharply drawn—a portrait of the perpetually dissatisfied artist.

THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG-DISTANCE CARTOONIST

A lifelong obsession with comics results in less reward than the author and illustrator might once have thought possible.

In his latest book, Tomine, who has been successful by nearly any measure—his oeuvre includes many minicomics and books and several New Yorker covers—delivers an understated yet illuminating graphic memoir full of insights on the creative process and the struggles of defining “success” in the world of comics and graphic novels. Early on in the narrative, the author is something like a younger Rodney Dangerfield, frustrated by a lack of respect. Schoolmates taunted him, and even the acclaim he earned as a teenage prodigy—“the boy wonder of mini-comics”—was short-lived, crushed by a backlash review that dismissed him as a derivative “moron.” The rites of passage that seemed like markers of success—Comic-Con, book signings, tours, awards ceremonies—generally left Tomine feeling deflated and resentful. Instead of reveling in the acceptance he received from the New Yorker and elsewhere, the author dwelled on the slur of dismissal as a Japanese American that he received from one veteran artist. Throughout his narrative, Tomine expresses feelings of inferiority to the more celebrated Neil Gaiman and Daniel Clowes—though an epigram from the latter, on how being a famous cartoonist is “like being the most famous badminton player,” proves telling. Even marriage and fatherhood failed to resolve Tomine’s insecurities or anger issues, and readers will begin to suspect that what’s at issue isn’t the lonely profession the author has chosen but rather problems of self-acceptance. A medical scare provided a reckoning and a realization that his obsession had become his albatross and that he needed to put his life in perspective. Upon reaching this “turning point,” he heads back to the drawing board—hopefully, for many more years to come.

Subtle, provocative, and sharply drawn—a portrait of the perpetually dissatisfied artist.

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77046-395-0

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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