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Tag: nate powell

Memoirs and Biographies of Those Who Broke Equal Rights Boundaries

When I think of social justice and equal rights, the first person who comes to mind is Martin Luther King.  But, we all know that he wasn’t fighting alone. His I Have a Dream Speech is one of the most familiar speeches ever heard, but, Congressman John Lewis can deliver a powerful and memorable one as well, as you will discover if you read March: Book Two. I’ve selected a few recently published memoirs or biographies by or about significant African-Americans, some more familiar to me than others. What they all have in common is a drive to excel and a belief in what they were striving for – something that will resonate with today’s readers of all ages.

 

misty-copelandLife in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina (Young Readers Edition) by Misty Copeland (The 2014 edition has been nominated for YALSA’s 2017 Popular Paperback for Young Adults in the biography category)

This is a recently published young readers’ adaptation of Copeland’s 2014 memoir about her becoming the first African-American principal dancer in American Ballet Theatre history. Despite not having started dancing until age 13, Misty’s talent allowed her to transcend her rough home life. Her family didn’t have much money, and she had a series of stepfathers growing up. As her talent brought her notice, she became embroiled in a custody battle between her mother and her ballet teacher, leading her to go to court to petition for emancipation. She is also frank about the prejudice she experienced as a black dancer, including the belief by some who said that black dancers had no place in classical ballet. “This is for the little brown girls,” Copeland says, but her inspiring story will be embraced by readers of all races.

img_3267Hidden Figures Young Readers’ Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly

The author’s father worked at NASA as did so many others in her community that she just assumed that “that’s just what black folks did.” She profiles four black women (Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden) who during World War II, were hired as “computers” – or female mathematicians by Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, in VA under NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) – later to expand to become NASA. At a time when educated black women good in math were only expected to become math teachers, these women helped the U.S.’s successes in space aeronautics. Women hired at Langley were as good or better at computing than the men but few were classified as mathematicians because that would mean they’d be on equal footing as the men. Instead, they were classified as “sub professional” and paid less than the men. The Fair Employment Practices Committee under President Roosevelt had opened up job opportunities for African Americans, desegregating the work force during the war.

Dorothy Vaughan joined the NACA in 1943 and was the first to be promoted into a management position. Mary Jackson was the first black women to become an engineer at NACA. Katherine Johnson’s math skills helped put the first American in orbit around the Earth.  Christine Darden became an expert on supersonic flight and her groundbreaking research on predicting sonic booms continues to be used today. These women opened the door for other women to become mathematicians as a career. This book, and the adult version, are the basis of the upcoming film Hidden Figures starring Octavia Spencer (as Dorothy Vaughan), Taraji P. Henson (as Katherine Johnson), Janelle Monáe (as Mary Johnson) but doesn’t include a portrayal of Christine Darden because the film focuses on the years before she started at NASA.

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History Comes Alive in Graphic Novels!

I am loving all the graphic novels that are being published that focus on moments in history.  They are not just doing a textbook coverage of historical events, but they are personalizing the events and making them more real to readers.  Maybe that is the benefit of reading a graphic novel?  Things seem more real when they are represented both by text and by art.  Check out some of the graphic novels below that will take you on a trip, back in time!

Ancient History/Pre-Industrial Revolution (up to 1800s)

The cover to Evolution.

Evolution: the Story of Life on Earth by Jay Hosler, Kevin Cannon, and others (2012 Great Graphic Novels for Teens)

Industrial Revolution (1800-1900)

AroundMagical

Around the World by Matt Phelan (2012 Great Graphic Novels for Teens)

The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam by Ann Marie Fleming (2008 Great Graphic Novels for Teens)

American History (1700-1900)

AmHist

Lewis & Clark by Nick Bertozzi

One Dead Spy: the Life, Times, and Last Words of Nathan Hale, America’s Most Famous Spy by Nathan Hale (2013 Great Graphic Novels for Teens)

The United States Constitution: a Graphic Adaptation by Jonathan Hennessey, Aaron McConnell (2009 Great Graphic Novels for Teens)

Gettysburg: the Graphic Novel by C.M. Butzer (2010 Great Graphic Novels for Teens)

Grant vs. Lee: the Graphic History of the Civil War’s Greatest Rivals During the Last Year of the War by Wayne Vansant

Best Shot in the West: the Adventures of Nat Love by Patricia C. McKissack, Fredrick L. McKissack Jr., Randy DuBurke

Donner Dinner Party by Nathan Hale (2014 Great Graphic Novels for Teens)

Houdini: the Handcuff King by Jason Lutes, Nick Bertozzi (2008 Great Graphic Novels for Teens

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Genre Guide: Graphic Memoirs

persepolisDefinition

Graphic memoirs are comics or sequential art that tell an autobiographical or semi-autobiographical story. Because they are a sub-genre of graphic novels and comics in general they may sometimes be referred to more generally as “nonfiction graphic novels.”

Characteristics

Most graphic memoirs do not cover the same wide scope a print memoir would. Typically what they lack in breath, the make up for in depth. Since graphic memoirs are instead more focused, they often afford the author the opportunity to focus on one particular event, span of years, or relationship with someone or something and their feelings surrounding it.  A key advantage of using the comics medium is the ability to show rather than merely tell. Everything from the font used for a particular character’s speech, to the size and position of each panel helps to tell the story.  In memoir, this can help the author to communicate a feeling or situation from their past more immediately and, and perhaps more effectively, than if they were relying on text alone. 

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Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top Ten 2013 (Part 3 of 3)

Welcome back to our third and final installment of 2013 Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top Ten. Today’s books delve into a seriously wide range of topics: the civil rights movement, canine loyalty, middle school drama (both on and off the stage), and another magnificent super hero reboot.

The Silence of our FriendsAs far as Top Ten books go, The Silence of Our Friends by Mark Long, Jim Demonakos, and Nate Powell was kind of a no-brainer. Told from the perspective of a young white boy whose family moves into an openly racist neighborhood, this semi-autobiographical story is set during the height of the Civil Rights Movement in Houston. The narrative is incredibly tense but peppered with quiet introspective moments, and the deft storytelling easily carries readers through both the personal and political stories. Nate Powell’s ink work is gorgeous and heightens the emotional undercurrents of the story without stealing the spotlight. Said one GGNFT committee member, “This book is ultimately about how difficult it is to be a good person.”

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