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Birth of a Nation: A Comic Novel Paperback – February 22, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-1400083169 ISBN-10: 1400083168

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Boondocks creator McGruder, filmmaker Hudlin and Why I Hate Saturn cartoonist Baker are a kind of dream team, and this work (drawn in Baker's animation-storyboard style) has a fairly hilarious premise. When the virtually all-black population of East St. Louis, Ill., is disenfranchised en masse in electoral shenanigans that result in a George W. Bush–like Texan governor being elected president, the impoverished city decides to secede from the U.S. Renaming itself "Blackland," the city becomes a wildly rich money-laundering capital. Baker is a gifted caricaturist—every facial expression and bit of body language he comes up with is funny—and the first two-thirds of the book is loaded with witty riffs (a national anthem to the tune of the Good Times theme; a fight over whether Tupac or Biggie should be on the nickel) and slyly ferocious jabs at institutional racism and a certain commander-in-chief. The final act, though, falls apart. The U.S. going to war with Blackland over a new alternative energy source should be a natural for comedy, but it bogs down in too-serious drama and a non sequitur battle. even McGruder and Hudlin's snappy dialogue loses steam. The work has the air of an unproduced film treatment—a terrific concept with some impressive talent behind it but not enough follow-through to make it completely satisfying.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

A Texas governor wins the presidency when some 1,000 blacks are barred from voting because of phony felony convictions, and the Supreme Court endorses that outcome. So the mayor of East St. Louis, home of the disfranchised, takes the famously poor, black-majority burg out of the union. With money from one old pal (now a billionaire) and the prowess of another (now a jet-fighter pilot) and administrative aid from the youthful New African People's Party and, heading the new nation's military, gang boss Roscoe, Mayor Fred Fredericks, first seen collecting trash in lieu of a bankrupt sanitation department, keeps pulling rabbits out of hats throughout an unpredictable, frequently hilarious satire reminiscent of the great 1940s moviemaker Preston Sturges' best stuff. In fact, film writer-director Reginald Hudlin brainstormed the story with The Boondocks comic strip creator McGruder as a prospective movie, turning, after big-fish producers failed to bite, to ace comics artist Kyle Baker for this graphic novel, which, despite screenplay origins that have been incompletely sanded down, remains highly entertaining. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press (February 22, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400083168
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400083169
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.4 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #518,505 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

A funny book, with biting social commentary.
J.R. LeMar
"Birth" still remains painfully relevant today, with intra- and interracial issues reaching up to the highest levels of American and international politics... COP IT!
Samax Randolph
Well, movie director Reginald Hudlin and comic strip creator Aaron McGruder were hanging out together at the San Diego Comic Book Convention.
Johnny Heering

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 45 people found the following review helpful By R. Bland on July 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Leading up to purchasing "Birth of a Nation" I was unsure about the direction the book would take. From the previews I read,(and the direction that "The Boondocks" has taken post 9/11) I was anticipating a heavy-handed, Michael Moore style beatdown of the Bush administration. Not that I am dissapprove of sticking it to GW (and his cabinet) at every opportunity. I just figured that this book be a case of preaching to the crowd.

Much to my delight, "Birth of a Nation" not only provides biting social satire, but a rich story line and vibrant characters. This reminds me why I started reading the boondocks in the first place and why McGruder was hailed as a wunderkind when he first entered the comic world. I don't think anyone slept on Bebe's Kids or the House party, but Hudlin has been doing it big for a while now. The brilliance of Mcgruder and Hudlin has to go alongside other prominent duos of our generation: EPMD, Outkast, Madvillain. I was not previously familiar with Kyle Baker's work, but his illustrations are definately on point. The style is similar to the way Bebe's Kids was drawn.(in case some were expecting The Boondocks' anime/manga style of illustration)

Not only putting the Bush administration of blast, "Birth Of a Nation" pokes fun at several areas of the Black community(generational gap, nationalism, materialism). I imagine that this book would be hard to follow if you are not immersed in Hip Hop culture. If you avoid rap music and Spike Lee movies this book might not be for you. Otherwise, if you enjoy Dave Chappelle, okayplayer.com, and Ego Trip's Big Book of Racism/Rap lists, I guarantee you will enjoy it.

Bonus points for finding

- find lyrics from Mobb Deep and Notorious BIG songs

-grown up versions Jazmine, Caesar, and Riley
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Johnny Heering on September 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
What's the story behind the story? Well, movie director Reginald Hudlin and comic strip creator Aaron McGruder were hanging out together at the San Diego Comic Book Convention. They were trying to come up with an idea for a movie, when Hudlin suggested the idea of his hometown of East St. Louis seceding from the United States. They wrote a script based on that idea, but they couldn't get a movie studio to make the film. So, rather than just let the script sit on the shelf, they decided to turn it into a graphic novel. Rather than have McGruder draw it himself, they got the brilliant Kyle Baker to illustrate it. So, how is the final result? It's great, in my opinion. It's a very funny book with great movie storyboard style illustrations. No doubt it will seem funnier to a liberal than it would to a conservative. But anyone who enjoys Aaron McGruder's Boondocks comic strip should also enjoy this book.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers on September 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
At one time or another, many have heard of the sentiment "we should have our own" from the Black community. Well Aaron McGruder, creator of the highly acclaimed comic strip The Boondocks and Reginald Hudlin writer/director of the all too funny House Party, have teamed up to give readers their impression on what having our own would be like in the social satire BIRTH OF A NATION, illustrated by Kyle Baker. The comic novel pokes fun at different areas of the Black community such as nationalism, materialism and the generational gap.

The book opens with an illustration displaying the stark contrast between St Louis and East St. Louis. As I viewed the illustrations, I did not find it hard to believe that the depiction was more of an accurate assessment rather than just the artist view. As the fictional mayor Fred Fredricks of East St. Louis rounds up the citizens to vote, they are turned away because they are all listed as convicted felons - including the mayor. This along with the persuasive tactics of the multi-billionaire, John Roberts, who has his own agenda, Fredricks decides to secede the Union.

As the Republic of Blackland is formed, the citizens can not come to agreements on the flag, the national anthem, or whose face will appear on the paper money and coins. The flag that is chosen to represent them is a picture of a White Jesus Christ on a red, black and green background. The national anthem is sung to the melody of "Good Times," and it is a toss up between rappers Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur for the face of the nickel. To counteract their efforts to secede the Union, the president and his cabinet shut down the welfare office, the unemployment office and the post office, which means no unemployment checks, no welfare checks, and no social security checks.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Robert Beveridge HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on November 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
Aaron McGruder and Reginald Hudlin, Birth of a Nation: A Comic Novel (Crown, 2004)

Despite having Kyle Baker artwork, which is always a "wow" factor in a graphic novel, I took one look at the synopsis for this book and had the sneaking suspicion I was going to hate it. Oh, boy, political satire in comic book form. Is it going to work any better than it does in the movies, in music, in poetry, etc.?

Can I get a hell, yeah!?

While McGruder (The Boondocks) and Hudlin (producer of a number of Hollywood hits) do occasionally cross the line between satire and being whacked repeatedly over the head with a week-old dead haddock, the bulk of this book is dead-on hilarious. The scenario: East St. Louis, one of the most economically depressed towns in America, decides to secede from the union and form the sovereign nation of Blackland (with a national anthem adapted from the Good Times! theme song that's worth the price of admission by itself) after the big disenfranchisement voting scandal we should all well remember. The new jefe of Blackland is its old mayor, who makes a deal with the leader of the criminal underworld-- and his ex's new boyfriend-- to head up the army. While the American government at first considers this an annoying publicity stunt, the (very Colin Powell-like) Secretary of State begins to wonder just how far Blackland is going to take this, and the government gets serious. Things come to a head when an ace Air Force captain who grew up in East St. Louis defects and a local 7-11 owner, who also happens to be a terrorist sleeper, is called into play by his bosses.

Great stuff, when it's not overbearing. Baker's artwork is, of course, wonderful throughout. Recommended. ***
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