31 May 2015

Still I Rise by Roland Laird & Taneisha Laird

Published: Sterling, 2009

# of Pages: 240

Source: Book Outlet, Purchased Copy

Goodreads Blurb/Summary: "Still I Rise is a critically acclaimed work with an impressive scope: the entire history of Black America, told in an accessible graphic-novel form. Updated from its original version—which ended with the Million Man March—it now extends from the early days of colonial slavery right through to Barack Obama’s groundbreaking presidential campaign. Compared by many to Art Spiegelman’s MausStill I Rise is a breathtaking achievement that celebrates the collective African-American memory, imagination, and spirit."


My Thoughts/Review: 

Still I Rise is a compelling novel that captures, in beautiful drawings and sketches, the history of African-Americas from the time of slavery to the presidential election of 2008. Highlighting some of the most profound activists, athletes, politicians, writers, artists, etc Laird makes an attempt to thoroughly describe and discuss the plight and improvements of African-Americans in the US. What truly caught my eye in this work was the level of detail in the drawings. The artist, Elihu "Adofo" Bey clearly spent a considerable amount of time and effort building and constructing the perfect images to align with the text. Although solely in black and white, his work added a certain flare and beauty to the story. 

Laird, clearly from the amount of detail, spent a great deal of time going through countless documents to fulfill his research needs. The book begins with an extremely detailed account of the beginnings of slavery and slowly slips into the slave rebellions and uprisings. With fluid writing the reader is engaged in a certain aspects of history that often go untold. Laird continues this detailed and fully expressive writing up until the dissection of the Civil Rights Movement and present African-American history. It is at this point that Laird looses his ability to fully address and identify the details of this significantly prominent movement. I truly believe that had the text of the book been extended there would have been a greater appreciation for detail. From this point on the text of the graphic novel was rushed and loosely thrown together. 

While I appreciated the narrators, a male and female humorously adding side notes to the story, I felt as though the female character focused too heavily on the negative side of the historical discussion. Yes, there have been injustices that have occurred against many African-Americans throughout history; however, every "non-black" individual did not take part in those injustices. In fact, Martin Luther King's famous march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama included more than just African-Americans. It is great points of diversity such as these that were seemingly omitted from the text.  I felt as though this character simply relied too heavily on the "blame game." 

Although I found flaws in the lack of detail and negativity displayed by one of the narrators, I did find the book to overall be a good insight to African-American history. There was quite a bit of information that I found to be both new and rewarding. I would recommend this graphic novel for its opening to a study of African-American history, but I would not solely rely on it as a primary source. It gives great encouragement to know not only the history of America that is taught in the textbooks, but also the history that often goes unnoticed. 

Rating: 3.5 Stars 


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