Birth of a Nation: A Comic Novel

Overview

This scathingly hilarious political satire--produced from a collaboration of three of our funniest humorists--answers the burning question: Would anyone care if East St. Louis seceded from the Union?

East St. Louis, Illinois ("the inner city without an outer city"), is an impoverished town, so poor that Fred Fredericks, its idealistic mayor, starts off Election Day by collecting the city's trash in his own minivan. But the mayor believes in the power of democracy and rallies his...

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Overview

This scathingly hilarious political satire--produced from a collaboration of three of our funniest humorists--answers the burning question: Would anyone care if East St. Louis seceded from the Union?

East St. Louis, Illinois ("the inner city without an outer city"), is an impoverished town, so poor that Fred Fredericks, its idealistic mayor, starts off Election Day by collecting the city's trash in his own minivan. But the mayor believes in the power of democracy and rallies his fellow citizens to the polls for the presidential election, only to find hundreds of them turned away for trumped-up reasons. Even sweet old Miss Jackson--not to mention the mayor himself--is denied the vote because her name turns up on a bogus list of felons. The national election hinges on Illinois's electoral votes and, as a result of the mass disenfranchisement of East St. Louis, a radical right-wing junta led by a dim-witted Texas governor seizes the Oval Office.

Prodded by shady black billionaire and old friend John Roberts, Fredericks devises a radical plan of protest: East St. Louis will secede from the Union. Roberts opens an "offshore" bank (albeit in the heart of the U.S.) to finance the newly liberated country, and suddenly East St. Louis becomes the Switzerland of the American heartland, flush with money. It also begins to attract a motley circus of idealistic young militants, OPEC-funded hitmen, CIA operatives, tabloid reporters, and AWOL black servicemen eager to protect and serve the new nation.

Problems set in almost immediately: Controversies rage over the name and national anthem of the new country (they decide on the Republic of Blackland with an anthem sung to the tune of thetheme from Good Times), and local thug Roscoe becomes a warlord and turns his gang into a paramilitary force. When the U.S. military begins to move in, Fredericks is forced to decide whether his protest is worth taking all the way.

Birth of a Nation starts with a scenario drawn from the botched election of 2000 and spins it into a brilliantly absurd work of sharply pointed satire. Along the way the authors lay into a host of hot social and cultural issues--skewering white supremacists, black nationalists, and everyone in between--drawing real blood and real laughs in equal measure in this riotous send-up of American politics.

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Editorial Reviews

Paul Di Filippo
Like such great cartoonists as Mad magazine's Sergio Aragones and Paul Coker, Baker makes the most of his abstracted lines. His two-page spread of an aerial dogfight through the famed St. Louis Arch is striking in its tilted composition. Plus he's swell at drawing sexy babes. Surprisingly, given McGruder's reputation for using occasional search-and-destroy tactics against the objects of his derision, this book ultimately recalls nothing so much as Leonard Wibberly's good-natured The Mouse Who Roared in its farcical, geopolitical shenanigans.
The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
The Boondocks creator McGruder, filmmaker Hudlin and Why I Hate Saturn cartoonist Baker are a kind of dream team, and this work (drawn in Baker's animation-storyboard style) has a fairly hilarious premise. When the virtually all-black population of East St. Louis, Ill., is disenfranchised en masse in electoral shenanigans that result in a George W. Bush-like Texan governor being elected president, the impoverished city decides to secede from the U.S. Renaming itself "Blackland," the city becomes a wildly rich money-laundering capital. Baker is a gifted caricaturist-every facial expression and bit of body language he comes up with is funny-and the first two-thirds of the book is loaded with witty riffs (a national anthem to the tune of the Good Times theme; a fight over whether Tupac or Biggie should be on the nickel) and slyly ferocious jabs at institutional racism and a certain commander-in-chief. The final act, though, falls apart. The U.S. going to war with Blackland over a new alternative energy source should be a natural for comedy, but it bogs down in too-serious drama and a non sequitur battle. even McGruder and Hudlin's snappy dialogue loses steam. The work has the air of an unproduced film treatment-a terrific concept with some impressive talent behind it but not enough follow-through to make it completely satisfying. (July) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
When hundreds of its black citizens, including the mayor, are mistakenly listed as felons and denied the right to vote, the presidential candidate they oppose wins by a tiny margin. As a result, the impoverished city of East St. Louis says "toodle-oo" to the United States and declares itself the independent country of Blackland. James Brown, Malcolm X, and Will Smith are pictured on the currency; the national anthem is sung to the theme of "Good Times." With the U.S. government breathing down his neck and his people complaining that electricity, postal service, and welfare have been cut off, Mayor/President Fred Fredericks must try to hold things together, aided by an outside revolutionary group, a billionaire, and the local crime boss. This hilarious, satirical comedy/drama was first written by cartoonist McGruder (The Boondocks) and film director Hudlin (House Party) as a screenplay, but when backing was not forthcoming, they enlisted Baker (Why I Hate Saturn) to illustrate it as a full-color graphic novel. Baker's exaggerated, comical cartoony style (think Mad magazine) fits and enhances the story very well. Language and sexual innuendo make this best for older teens and adults, for whom it is highly recommended. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400048595
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/20/2004
  • Pages: 144
  • Product dimensions: 8.10 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

AARON McGRUDER is the creator of The Boondocks comic strip and the author of the national bestseller A Right to Be Hostile.

REGINALD HUDLIN has written, produced, or directed eight films, including House Party, Boomerang, and Bebe's Kids.

KYLE BAKER is the author of several classic graphic novels, and his illustrations have appeared in publications nationwide.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2004

    Great Political-Social Satire

    I read this comic novel twice. The first to enjoy the satire and the story line. The second time to really 'get' the more subtle messages. Some parts are laugh-out-loud funny while other parts make you shake your head and say, 'Sad but true.' What I really like is that it covered some serious issues concerning black politics and the hip-hop generation's participation (or lack thereof, at times). The thinly disguised portrayals of current national leaders were other highlights of the book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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