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Silence of Our Friends, The Paperback – January 17, 2012
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Set in Houston in 1968, this graphic novel is based on Long’s childhood memories of the events surrounding a little-remembered incident from the civil rights movement. As the students of Texas Southern University gear up for a demonstration involving Stokely Carmichael’s Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, smaller satellite confrontations around town hint at the violence to come. The story unfolds from two sets of eyes, those of a white TV reporter (Long’s father) and a black demonstration leader. Deciding that “men of conscience have got to join together,” the two forge a friendship that crosses the color line, is not looked upon favorably by either of their communities, and gets tested when the demonstration turns ugly. Powell is one of the finest young cartoonists around, and his artwork—with full-bodied figures, a loose compositional style, and inky black-and-white tones—unflinchingly mines the drama of both petty slashes of racism and larger instances of civil unrest. All the more powerful for its unfortunate familiarity, this account also shows how small acts of humanity can outclass even the most determined hatred. --Ian Chipman
"[This] civil rights graphic novel already seems to have 'Eisner nomination' written down the side." - Bleeding Cool
"You can't help but feel moved by this story and you can't walk away unchanged. The combination of story and art works perfectly in capturing this event and this time period. I'm predicting this book will be one of the best graphic novels of the year, perhaps even one of the best books of the year." - Musings of a Librarian
"...absolutely engaging and a complex graphic novel that I think could be analyzed on a deeper level and has broader historical themes. It is fantastic from beginning to the very end with the author's note and will hopefully affect you as much as it did me." - Good Books and Good Wine
"...an engrossing narrative about race in America, while honestly dealing with a host of other real-world issues, including familial relationships, friendship, dependency, "other"-ness, and perhaps most importantly, the search for common ground." - Publisher's Weekly
A moving evocation of a tipping point in our country's regrettable history of race relations, Long and Demonakos's story flows perfectly in Eisner and Ignatz Award winner Powell's (Swallow Me Whole) graceful and vivid yet unpretty black-and-gray wash.. - Library Journal
"…convincingly depicts the systemic racism, blatant and subtle, that suffused and corroded everything during [the] period…[Powell's] imagery amplifies the effects of the book's multiple perspectives―the overwhelmed kid's-eye view of uneasy family dynamics and open Texas spaces, the hyperkinetic chaos on campus, the cropped literalism of TV newscasts." ―The New York Times
"...an engrossing narrative about race in America, while honestly dealing with a host of other real-world issues, including familial relationships, friendship, dependency, "other"-ness, and perhaps most importantly, the search for common ground." ―Publisher's Weekly
"A moving evocation of a tipping point in our country's regrettable history of race relations, Long and Demonakos's story flows perfectly in Eisner and Ignatz Award winner Powell's graceful and vivid yet unpretty black-and-gray wash." ―School Library Journal
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Top Customer Reviews
I became a resident of Texas some years ago after living much of my life in the Northeast part of the country. This graphic novel is educational and it's entertaining because of the serious and accurate portrayals of society, peer pressure, parental responsibility, and genuine efforts to bridge gaps between people of different ethnicities.
A few things to note about the book: 1 - The overall quality and ending is serious and solemn, but it offers real hope and a resolution that is very satisfying. 2 - The book contains the use of the n-word and some profanity. 3 - The storytelling techniques and the references to Vietnam and the civil rights movement actually make this a story with some layers. It sounds like some reviewers were a little thrown by the subtleties of the story and how it's conveyed in both the words and images. 4 - Also, the size of the paperback is not tiny, but it is of a size that results in a book of artwork that is somewhat compact in terms of individual panels and images. It requires you to occasionally slow down and look closely at the art to understand the details.
I really enjoyed this book, and I hope that many more people who are interested in civil rights, American history, and solid graphic storytelling will discover, read, and share this book. One last thing -- the primary author includes a very nice reflection in prose at the end of the main story. He provides some background on the real events in his life that inspired the story. Great job, Mr. Long, Mr. Powell, and Mr. Demonakos!
I loved the artwork in this graphic novel, detailed and realistically drawn illustrations embrace each page. The character’s faces: their all-knowing eyes, the deep creases on their foreheads, and the way that the eyebrows tell the story of what’s really transpiring, it’s as though you don’t need to read the words within each text box. I got caught up in just looking at the illustrations a few times, as they themselves relay the story of just how these characters feel about the situation that they are in. This graphic novel is about civil rights in the late 1960’s. It’s about the violence, the beliefs, the struggles and the spirit of the individuals who fought to be heard. What I liked best about this novel is the illustrations and how we get to read both sides of the story. In this novel, a white journalist becomes friends with a black activist as a murder has been committed and the real suspects need to be brought to justice. I found myself lost a times inside this story, the story confusing but as I pulled myself back, I found my footage and entered into the drama once again. It’s a powerful story and one that gains its strength from its wonderful illustrations.
Every so often a book will come along that will challenge you, that will make you think, and that will hopefully leave you a bit better after you've read it. And this is just one such book. And yes some people are probably thinking that's high praise for a graphic novel, but the story will give you chills within the first three pages and suck you in and not let you go until the very end of the story.
It's 1968 in Houston, Texas and the fight for civil rights is heating up. Young Mark Long's father, Jack Long, is the local TV station's race reporter and he's embedded into the third ward, one of the poorest parts of the town. Jack is attempting to cover the events occurring in town, such as the expulsion of the the SNCC (student nonviolent coordinating committee) from Texas State University, and do justice to the people that he's covering. He's saved at one event by Larry Thompson, a local black leader, and the two become friends and their lives intertwine. One white family from a notoriously racist neighborhood in the burbs and one black family from the poorest ward in Houston, come together and find common ground in a conflict that threatens to tear the city apart. But before the end it may all come crashing down with the arrest of the TSU five. Which will be the loudest before the end, the words of hate or the silence of friends? This semi-autobiographical tale is based upon true events of Mark Long's father.
One of the problem that I normally see with autobiographical stories, like this one, is that they often try to give the reader to much information about the story and invariably the reader gets lost or there are moment that leave us wondering why we're supposed to care about the story. But this book...this book doesn't have that issue. The authors have focused the story upon specific events of the race issues affecting the town in a given time period and give you enough information that you understand where the characters are coming from, but it never lets you wander away from what the focus of the story is. And more importantly you don't ever feel like you're missing out on something.
My favorite part of the storytelling though is how we get to see the story from two different perspectives--a white family from a racist neighborhood and a black family from one of poorest areas of Houston. Living in many ways on opposite sides of the world and yet we get to see the overlap and the differences between the two families clearly. And while that may sound like a cheesey way or stereotypical way of telling the story, Mark Long and Jim Demonakos tell the story in such a deft manner that you don't really see it being told that way. You see the characters as real people. You get to understand a bit of what they went through, the troubles that each family faced for the actions they took and didn't take, and that you want to know them in real life--just so that you could learn more from them. One last thought about the story--the title of the book comes from a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. "In the end, We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." And this book does justice to those words.
Nate Powell's artwork is absolutely gorgeous. It's done in his typical grace/style of capturing the human form oh so perfectly and it seems like this time he's gone even further in his use of shading to give us the beauty of all different types of skin tones, each character's is unqiue. His artwork is perfectly suited for this story capturing the range and intensity of emotions--the sorrow, the joy, and the fear that sends chills down your spine. That intensity, that feeling of life that he captures in their faces really makes them come alive. And the last pages of the books are some of the most powerful of the book. It seems like a rather basic layout of people walking in the street, with a closeup so that you can see the people's skin tones--both black and white, and you can see their faces. But then he starts pulling back and all you can see are forms of people all different sizes, both genders, and all muted gray. No race and no color to divide them, just one people.
You can't help but feel moved by this story and you can't walk away unchanged. The combination of story and art works perfectly in capturing this event and this time period. I'm predicting this book will be one of the best graphic novels of the year, perhaps even one of the best books of the year.
A review copy of this book was provided by Gina at FirstSecond