Friday, December 3, 2010

Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography

Author: Andrew Helfer
Artist: Randy DuBurke
Hardcover: 112 pages
Publisher: Hill and Wang (November 2006)
Rating: 4 out of 5

Helfer and DuBurke tell the story of Malcolm X's short life—his meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the two leaders describing the opposite ideological ends of the fight for civil rights; and his eventual assassination by other members of the Nation of Islam (NOI)—in narration and detailed b&white drawings, sharp as photographs in a newspaper.

My thoughts:
      There's lots of research to back it up, but here's what I know about my reluctant boy readers:
  • they like to read graphic novels
  • they prefer non-fiction 
Because of this, I'm trying to get away from my manga/fantasy comfort zone and look for more non-fiction graphic novels to talk about. Here's the first one that I picked up from the Farrar, Straus and Giroux booth at NCTE.

This graphic novel is probably for older middle school students or high school students because of the content, but the authors also use very sophisticated techniques in this graphic novel to tell Malcolm X's stormy story. For example, the authors choose to start the book with the famous photograph of Malcolm looking out the hotel window holding a rifle. That as well as the heavy black and white newspaper style photos set the tone for the book. Another interesting thing that they did was on the cover, Malcolm's photo gets larger and at the same time it gets more pixellated and starts to disappear. Again another tone indicator.

I like how Malcolm X is portrayed as both hero and criminal, visionary and bully. I think students need to continue to see the complexities in our historic figures and not the watered down, black and white version that they too often see in the textbooks. This graphic novel may be in black and white, but Malcolm X's story is a colorful and stormy one.

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