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Posted May 18, 2014
I am a bit of a snob when it comes to literature. I have a hiera
I am a bit of a snob when it comes to literature. I have a hierarchy, completely arbitrary in design and unique to me, by which books are ranked to be “literature.” In this listing, the order of “importance” is: hardbound, paperback, booklet, graphic novel and comic book. To be Literature a book must be: hardbound, contain no pictures needed to “illustrate” the plot and contain sentences that require pause to process. After reading this Graphic Novel, I have to revamp this paradigm. Important Literature and huge literary moments can be presented in a book that is softbound, lusciously illustrated, written with few words but those are of such power the reader is left stunned with their depth.
Max Brooks, famous for his book detailing the oral history of a fictional war with zombies, takes a little known military unit serving in a war that has been largely forgotten in the cordite smoke of the wars of following century and creates an extraordinary Historical Novel. A novel that confronts a nation who is “the first country in the world brave enough to be built on nothing but ideals. . . even if it wasn’t quite ready to live up to them” (p.221) with the bravery, integrity and heart of the 369th Infantry Unit of WWI. The most decorated unit in that war, who never lost a man to capture or a trench to the enemy, who possessed the first American to be awarded the Croix de Guerre (the French Medal of Honor) and whose recognition was suppressed because the unit was made up entirely of African-Americans.
The text is richly sparse in the best of the Hemingway tradition. The illustrations, all in black and white, are exacting, nearly three-dimensional in crispness and very graphic. The combination of these mediums cause every honor, degradation, rat, death, bomb, gas attack experienced in the telling of this history to be a living moment. They learned quickly that the casualties of war are not limited to bullets, bombs or gas that death can come from the tiniest of sources. These men suffered deaths I cannot imagine: shipped out of New York so they could not participate in the Send Off parade given for the White unit (named the Rainbow Unit, they were excluded “because black is not a color in the rainbow” p.63); to Spartanburg, S.C., a stronghold of Segregation and told they could not defend themselves if attacked, then sent to war after less than a month’s training only to be detailed to manual labor.
When the war began to go against the Allies, the 369th was finally allowed to fight. They fought for a country that did not want them, who oppressed them at every turn and hoped they would fail. They fought because they were men who hated bullies and who loved their country. Due to these reasons, they volunteered for the most dangerous of missions.
This is a book that would serve well to be on the required reading list of every high school history class. It would take less than two hours to read but the information gained from that effort will last, hopefully, a lifetime. This age needs to be reminded of heroic deeds done by simple, dedicated people who will stand and shout to those who would oppress anyone, “Here we stand, we are able, we are willing and you will not defeat us.” We need heroes. I am grateful for those who have raised such a standard to which all can aspire.
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Posted May 20, 2014
I am only at basic training but I couldn't wait to the end to re
I am only at basic training but I couldn't wait to the end to recommend this book. The graphic novel format is engrossing. The artwork is fantastic and the story is very gripping. I can't wait to get home and keep reading.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 19, 2014