Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: Fulcrum Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Graphic Novel, Nonfiction
Format: eARC (Edelweiss)
Page Count: 176
Strange Fruit, Volume I is a collection of stories from African American history that exemplifies success in the face of great adversity. This unique graphic anthology offers historical and cultural commentary on nine uncelebrated heroes whose stories are not often found in history books. Among the stories included are: Henry "Box" Brown, who escaped from slavery by mailing himself to Philadelphia; Alexander Crummel and the Noyes Academy, the first integrated school in America, established in the 1830s; Marshall "Major" Taylor, a.k.a. the Black Cyclone, the first black champion in any sport; and Bass Reeves, the most successful lawman in the Old West. Written and illustrated by Joel Christian Gill, the diverse art beautifully captures the spirit of each remarkable individual and opens a window into an important part of American history.
Strange Fruit, Volume I: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History (other than having a long title) is a graphic novel of nine stories from African American History. Each one is told simply and usually with humor. When I first saw this book I knew I wanted to read it and I am honestly glad I did.
Let me be completely honest with you guys. At the beginning, I was not fond of this book. I even considered DNFing (lol) the book at one point, but I forced myself to keep going and it is a good thing that I did. I think it was just the first few stories and the style they were written in that were not too appealing to me. I felt as if they were written over-simplified as if the novel was geared towards younger children, but at the same time with random pretentious words sprinkled in here and there. I also found it ironic that simple words were defined while bigger, more complicated words I did not understand were not, but I guess that probably was tactfully done this way. Now don't get me wrong the actually history in these first few stories was good, but it was just how they were told that I disliked. The text in these few was a little too tiny for my liking as well.
Moving from about the 3rd story to the fourth was like a drastic improvement. The stories suddenly became more engaging and I was not able to put the book down from there until it was finished. The style used to tell the first few stories was left behind and the new style (I felt at least) was much better and well put together. Even the text improved. All the historic tales were told with eloquence and in a way that kept me interested. It really pleasantly surprised me how the book just shifted into a great reading experience.
The graphics from this book were interesting as well. I am not sure if the finished copy looks the same compared to the e-galley, but for the most part I really liked the drawing style. The only thing that really bothered me here was that I felt the skin color of the African Americans was way too dark. Yeah I'm talking real dark, like I can only make out the eyes dark. That being said this might be a problem unique to the e-galley format and not a problem for the finished copy.
Overall, I did enjoy reading this graphic novel. It is unique and for the most part very well done. I really would recommend it to everyone because it's a nice, quick, and easy nonfiction read. Honestly, this would probably be a 4 star and above book if it was not for the first few stories I did not enjoy.
3 out of 5 stars
3 out of 3 stars