I See the Promised Land: A Life of Martin Luther King, Jr.


This stunning graphic novel biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. describes the apartheid South of his time, which in many ways was not very different from the early days of slavery. Included are descriptions of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the formation of civil rights groups, mass movements against segregation, such as the Albany Movement and the Children’s Crusade in Birmingham, and the influence on King of Gandhi, with his nonviolent approach to resistance. Flowers’ text smoothly incorporates excerpts from ...
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This stunning graphic novel biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. describes the apartheid South of his time, which in many ways was not very different from the early days of slavery. Included are descriptions of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the formation of civil rights groups, mass movements against segregation, such as the Albany Movement and the Children’s Crusade in Birmingham, and the influence on King of Gandhi, with his nonviolent approach to resistance. Flowers’ text smoothly incorporates excerpts from many of King’s most moving speeches and concludes with a brief look at his legacy. Flowers tells a masterful story in musical prose, while Manu Chitrakar carries the tale into the vivid idiom of Patua art, turning King’s historic journey into a truly universal legacy.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Both evocative and factually rich . . . Older teens, in addition to adults, will find this to be a standout both as a distinctive graphic narrative that combines two world storytelling traditions and as an examination of King’s life and its enduring legacy across the globe.” — Booklist Starred Review
VOYA - Kevin Beach
This unusual collaboration combines traditional storytelling with a distinctively ethnic graphic style in the heroic story of the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr.'s achievements. Presented like a graphic novel, the colorful panels are reminiscent of medieval art. The illustrator is a Patua scroll artist from India who has masterfully used his traditional technique that is normally reserved for presenting myths and legends. The accompanying text, told in a traditional, dialectical narrative style, fits well with the illustrations, and they come together to elicit the emotions, terror, and bravery of those struggling with racism and hatred. The book also presents an important history lesson to those too young to remember how one man's peaceful, nonviolent resistance movement changed history. The bus boycotts, the role of the churches, black codes, and important participants on both sides of the conflict are represented in the simple but effective drawings. A brief glossary explains a bit more about the historical tidbits. This is a revised edition of a 2010 publication, with added illustrations and content. The illustrator's experiences with India's caste system and its treatment of "untouchables" strengthen the bond with the griot from Africa in presenting this poignant and universal account of oppression. This book is highly recommended, both for the art and the message. Reviewer: Kevin Beach
Children's Literature - Leona Illig
The revised edition of this 2010 book about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a superb testament to the man who became the face of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. While the story of his life is well known, this book brings the reader inside the turmoil, brutality, heartbreak, and triumph of Dr. King’s world by employing a number of experimental techniques. The text mixes the words and rhythms of black slang, the blues, and Standard English. The unconventional fonts are big and bold, or small and elegant, depending on the subject at hand. Quotations from Dr. King are presented in huge white type on a black background. The overall effect is electrifying: readers can suddenly hear the voices, not only of Dr. King, but also of all the people around him, foes and supporters alike. The artwork is both stunning and surprising. Chitrakar, an Indian scroll painter, uses the medium of Patua art to illustrate the story. The result is striking, and its beautiful incongruity forces the reader to look at Dr. King with new eyes. Be advised: this book does not gloss over the brutality and misery of slavery, or Dr. King’s personal failings. But by showing the unvarnished truth of his life, the concepts of freedom, integrity, and destiny become that much more compelling. This is a book not just to be read and looked at, but to be read aloud as a powerful song, and appreciated as a work of art. It is a book for all people, and for all time. The back of the book contains editorial notes, and a section titled “Conversations Across Cultures.” Unlike many overpriced graphic novels, this one is a true bargain as well as a collector’s item. Reviewer: Leona Illig; Ages 10 up.
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Who better to give Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life story the full mythopoeic treatment than the renowned African American novelist and performance poet. Flowers's hyper-vernacular language, swinging rhythms, and conspiratorial first-person tone lend his words a vivacity that is nearly audible. He weaves the entire history of the enslavement of black Americans into King's story, refers to unspecified gods taking an interest in affairs, and comments on King's speeches with impressive insight. Brilliant and engaging, Flowers's composition should be added to the MLK canon. The art is by a scroll painter from a small village in Bengal, India, who had never heard of Dr. King prior to this project. In some ways, this is a successful pairing. The vivid colors and bold forms of Patua are appropriately emphatic, and the naive style matches Flowers's references to "hoodoo" and his chosen narrative persona, Rickydoc Trickmaster. However, the images are repetitive, and it can be difficult to distinguish individuals. People often appear to be wearing inappropriately peaceful expressions; this, readers are informed in the back matter, is a characteristic of Patua style but might be puzzling for young people. Design also plays an important role. Images are cut into pieces for emphasis, text is artfully placed in blocks that not only enhance readability but also reinforce the counterpoint between narrative and commentary. A colorful and passionate addition to the Martin Luther King, Jr., bookshelf, perhaps best suited to classroom use.—Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson, MD
Kirkus Reviews
A new edition of a 2010 graphic telling of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. via Patua scroll paintings. In this rather disjointed patchwork of pictures and prose--the art by Bengali artist Chitrakar, and the text by poet Flowers--the main points of King's life are depicted in the traditional Indian art. Flowers doesn't shy away from any aspects of King's life, describing his accomplishments and foibles straightforwardly ("Boy got a weakness for the flesh"). Chitrakar's characters are often portrayed with one-color apparel (that often look like Nehru jackets) against monochromatic backdrops, negating any feel for the 1960s Southern setting. The accompanying text varies in size and typeface, wandering almost drunkenly over pages in a free-form style that makes for a complicated path. Consistent with Flowers' blues-based approach, the actual prose doesn't adhere to grammatical conventions, easily mixing in contemporary slang like "oldschool" and "mack." King's actual words march across black double-page spreads in alarmingly huge white font (at times used for the author's words as well). These components all combine for an effect that is distracting and disjointed. With many choices of works about King, there are certainly better selections to be made. In the end, it feels more like experimental performance art than biography. (editorial notes) (Graphic biography. 15 & up)
Publishers Weekly
Traditional Bengali scroll art and oral storytelling come together in this retelling of the life of Martin Luther King Jr., though the fusion of the two media is rarely harmonious. English professor and performance poet Flowers provides the text, which chronicles not only King's life but also centuries of racial abuses, beginning with the slave trade. Accompanying the text are Chitrakar's vibrant illustrations, full of lush primary colors and bold brush strokes; their power is diluted by the page layout, particularly the distracting blocks of texts superimposed over the images. Judged separately, the components are strong, and the idea to present King's life as a cross-cultural mixture of art and words is effective. Flowers shows King not only as a man committed to fighting injustice but also as one who struggled to find his place in the rapidly changing civil rights climate, as nonviolent protests were becoming a thing of the past. There is little attempt to integrate the text, let alone the font, with the imagery, however, leaving the reader with an overall impression, despite the novel approach, of disjointed parts soldered together to make a rickety whole. Ages 9–12. (Dec.)
Library Journal
Self-dubbed a "performance poet" fusing the African oral tradition of the griot with Western print culture, Flowers (Another Good Loving Blues; Mojo Rising) weaves Martin Luther King Jr.'s story into the vivid canvas of Chitrakar's distinctive art. For his part, the West Bengal scroll artist has produced dramatic illustrative visuals bringing to life Flowers's spare, lyrical prose through a more picture-story approach than traditional comics. (See Eric Nash's 2009 Manga Kamishibai for the Japanese approach to picture-story theater.) Endnotes provide brief background on the historical context of King's life. VERDICT A myth-making take on King's life that has both emotional and intellectual impact, the Flowers/Chitrakar collaboration supplies fresh color and richness to the oft-told history of this game-changer. The deceptive yet appealing simplicity of the bright, rounded figures turns King's myth again for a new season. Designed for adults but fine for teens and up; recommended for all libraries. Be sure to display this along with Ho Che Anderson's King: A Comics Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Fantagraphics, 2005) for Black History Month.—M.C.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554983285
  • Publisher: Groundwood Books
  • Publication date: 1/1/2013
  • Edition description: Revised Edition
  • Pages: 156
  • Sales rank: 784,898
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 930L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.70 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Arthur Flowers teaches in the English Department at Syracuse University in New York. A native of Memphis and co-founder of the New Renaissance Writers Guild, he is a performance poet who considers himself heir to the Western written tradition as well as to the African oral one. He lives in Syracuse, NY.
Manu Chitrakar lives and works in Naya Village in Bengal, India. A Patua scroll artist who sings and paints, he is part of a living art and performance tradition that is as open to contemporary news stories and politics as it is to ancient legend and myth. He lives in Naya Village in Bengal, India.
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