James Sturm's America: God, Greed, and Golems


Focusing on less sensational times in U.S. history (non-war and pre-Depression) James Sturm's America draws a portrait of the people and their dreams that make up this country. Comprised of three chapters—"The Revival," "Hundreds of Feet Below Daylight," and "The Golem's Mighty Swing"—the stories grow as the country grows: from pioneers searching for a place to call home to ghost towns gutted by greed and racism to the distractions and fantasies of popular entertainment.

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Focusing on less sensational times in U.S. history (non-war and pre-Depression) James Sturm's America draws a portrait of the people and their dreams that make up this country. Comprised of three chapters—"The Revival," "Hundreds of Feet Below Daylight," and "The Golem's Mighty Swing"—the stories grow as the country grows: from pioneers searching for a place to call home to ghost towns gutted by greed and racism to the distractions and fantasies of popular entertainment.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Sturm's prose is as elegantly understated as his line work. And every now and then he throws the heater: 'They've been waiting for their Messiah a thousand years,' says one opponent. 'So they know how to wait on a curveball.' A-." —Entertainment Weekly

"Luminous . . . The revival, as Sturm gleaned through careful research, offered an oasis of companionship, entertainment and brief salvation from the land itself. One can see how Americans . . . would have yearned for a message that this dangerous, lonely place was actually part of some divine plan." —The New York Times Book Review

"Employing thick lines, minimal detail and simple prose storytelling, Sturm gracefully summons the seedy, often dangerous baseball world of the 1920s." —The Washington Post

Publishers Weekly

Three of Sturm's previously released graphic novels are gathered to create a Howard Zinn-like look at lesser-known episodes of America's past. "The Revival" is a short, sharp piece dramatizing the massive 1801 religious revival meeting in Cane Ridge, Ky. (the country's biggest ever), with the story of a traveling couple who arrive at the meeting with fire in their eyes and a dark secret pushing them on. In "Hundreds of Feet Below Daylight," successive waves of greed, racism and blind folly swamp a Western mining town in the late 19th century. Because the allegory for the evils of Western expansion is so blatantly rendered, it's by far the weakest segment. The strongest is the last and longest, "The Golem's Mighty Swing," which adds a welcome dose of lyricism. Building on scraps of early baseball history, the Negro Leagues and Jewish mysticism, Sturm weaves a parable on racism and spectacle around a barnstorming, supposedly all-Jewish team in the 1920s called the Stars of David. The more the players parody themselves as mystical Hebrews, the more they earn. Sturm's art changes with the time period, moving from the dark gothic style of "The Revival" to the last story's clean and airy nostalgia. (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
School Library Journal

Gr 10 & Up - Sturm presents three vignettes set in distinct places and times in U.S. history. "The Revival" showcases the desperation and despair felt by settlers on the frontier. The promise of second chances and the hope for a better life are offered not only by the religious spirit of the revival, but also by the opportunity to begin again someplace new. In "Hundreds of Feet below Daylight," gold is a powerful lure that also offers hope of a better life. Sturm illuminates the wishes, antipathies, and fears of a mining town, punctuated by many acts of violence. "The Golem's Mighty Swing," previously published as a stand-alone book, rounds out the collection. Hucksterism and prejudice collide when a down-and-out Jewish baseball team allows an unscrupulous promoter to costume a player from the Negro Leagues as the golem to draw crowds. A potential riot ends up washed out-miraculous or just good luck? The black-and-white art varies, from smooth lines and gray shading in "Golem" to a rougher look reminiscent of woodblock printing in "Revival." Sturm ably captures his characters' emotions and reveals motivation with telling details. These stories will be best appreciated by readers familiar with-or curious about-the American past.-Susan Salpini, formerly at TASIS-The American School in England

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
The interplay of darkness and light distinguishes this three-part graphic narrative that probes the seamier recesses of the American soul. The alliterative subtitle provides an apt description of the contents of this historical volume from award-winning artist Sturm (Unstable Molecules, 2003). The "God" section, titled "The Revival," launches the narrative in the frontier of the early 1800s, when Missouri and Ohio were still the untamed West, and pilgrims proceeded through a wilderness of sin for the promise of salvation. It's hard to sustain the faith amid the drinking, gambling and rampant fornication, with God's absence felt more strongly than his presence. Meanwhile, the "Gold" section takes place "Hundreds of Feet Below Daylight," which provides metaphoric resonance as well as a literal description of a hellhole mine marked by greed and betrayal. The narrative then flashes forward to the 1920s with "The Golem's Mighty Swing," the longest and most ambitious of the chapters and the one that finally allows some daylight. Here, the ethnic divisiveness that has been simmering through the earlier chapters comes to a boil, as the barnstorming Stars of David baseball team ("The Bearded Wandering Wonders") experiences ridicule and hostility as its novelty value packs parks across the country. The Jewish squad features an African-American ringer, transformed into "the Golem" by an unscrupulous promoter. Sturm captures the essence of the country as reflected in the all-American pastime. It doesn't take many words or strokes for Sturm's graphic artistry to leave a lasting impression.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781897299050
  • Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
  • Publication date: 5/28/2007
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 1,263,833
  • Product dimensions: 8.01 (w) x 9.82 (h) x 1.16 (d)

Meet the Author

James Sturm is the author of several award-winning graphic novels for children and adults, including Market Day, The Golem’s Mighty Swing and Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow. He is also the founder of the Center for Cartoon Studies and the National Association for Comics Art Educators.  He created Adventures in Cartooning with collaborators Alexis Frederic-Frost and Andrew Arnold. Sturm, his wife, and two daughters live in White River Junction, Vermont.

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