A concise but thorough and cohesive overview of pandemics from ancient times to 2020.

Each of the seven chapters in this work describes pandemics from different time periods and geographical areas. Opening with a chart showing the death tolls of 20 different pandemics, the introduction notes that the grim reality of corpses piling up in New York City in spring 2020 is just one commonality among worldwide deathly contagions. Opening with ancient plagues, the text clarifies the distinction between epidemic and pandemic and explains the link between agricultural societies and pandemics. Throughout, the text offers food for thought, including strong evidence that European plagues led to socio-economic upheaval, social restructuring, and religious crises while diseases brought to the Americas by Europeans created deadly and psychologically damaging burdens to Indigenous and enslaved African people. Other topics covered include the science behind vaccinations; parallels between people in 1918 and 2020 who rejected public health advice; and inhumane behaviors during pandemics. The final chapter, dealing with our current pandemic, discusses political factors and social inequalities relating to Covid-19 in the U.S., ending on a cautionary note. The pace of the writing is generally good, and the layout is excellent, with relevant photographs and plenty of helpful sidebars. Fascinating—and sometimes grisly—quotations from long-ago writers about ancient plagues and stories from modern survivors of the Spanish flu, polio, and HIV put a human face on the suffering.

Timely and worthwhile. (source notes, further reading, index, picture credits) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: March 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-6782-0042-8

Page Count: 80

Publisher: ReferencePoint Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Small but mighty necessary reading.


From the Pocket Change Collective series

A miniature manifesto for radical queer acceptance that weaves together the personal and political.

Eli, a cis gay white Jewish man, uses his own identities and experiences to frame and acknowledge his perspective. In the prologue, Eli compares the global Jewish community to the global queer community, noting, “We don’t always get it right, but the importance of showing up for other Jews has been carved into the DNA of what it means to be Jewish. It is my dream that queer people develop the same ideology—what I like to call a Global Queer Conscience.” He details his own isolating experiences as a queer adolescent in an Orthodox Jewish community and reflects on how he and so many others would have benefitted from a robust and supportive queer community. The rest of the book outlines 10 principles based on the belief that an expectation of mutual care and concern across various other dimensions of identity can be integrated into queer community values. Eli’s prose is clear, straightforward, and powerful. While he makes some choices that may be divisive—for example, using the initialism LGBTQIAA+ which includes “ally”—he always makes clear those are his personal choices and that the language is ever evolving.

Small but mighty necessary reading. (resources) (Nonfiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09368-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today.

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A beautifully heart-wrenching graphic-novel adaptation of actor and activist Takei’s (Lions and Tigers and Bears, 2013, etc.) childhood experience of incarceration in a World War II camp for Japanese Americans.

Takei had not yet started school when he, his parents, and his younger siblings were forced to leave their home and report to the Santa Anita Racetrack for “processing and removal” due to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. The creators smoothly and cleverly embed the historical context within which Takei’s family’s story takes place, allowing readers to simultaneously experience the daily humiliations that they suffered in the camps while providing readers with a broader understanding of the federal legislation, lawsuits, and actions which led to and maintained this injustice. The heroes who fought against this and provided support to and within the Japanese American community, such as Fred Korematsu, the 442nd Regiment, Herbert Nicholson, and the ACLU’s Wayne Collins, are also highlighted, but the focus always remains on the many sacrifices that Takei’s parents made to ensure the safety and survival of their family while shielding their children from knowing the depths of the hatred they faced and danger they were in. The creators also highlight the dangerous parallels between the hate speech, stereotyping, and legislation used against Japanese Americans and the trajectory of current events. Delicate grayscale illustrations effectively convey the intense emotions and the stark living conditions.

A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today. (Graphic memoir. 14-adult)

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60309-450-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Top Shelf Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2019

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