What begins as an exploration of the effects of fracking on Native lands sprawls into a haunted history of an entire civilization. Sacco takes pains to convey textureI'm tempted to say the way he draws
trees is worth the price of admission alone. The first chapter is a tour de force…Eschewing panels in favor of a more organic flow of images from top to bottom, Sacco captures the essence of life lived as part of the land.…As in earlier books centered on the Middle East and the Balkans, Sacco gives voice to the marginalized, letting his subjects tell their stories without overly interpreting thema sign of respect, and a way to show that the Dene aren't monolithic.
The New York Times Book Review - Ed Park M D
Eisner-winner Sacco (
Safe Area Goražde) travels to northern Canada to talk with members of the Dene, a First Nations group located largely in the Northwest Territories, in this arresting exploration of a community on the brink. Fracking is the hotly contested issue at hand; it brings money and jobs, but devastates the environment. Sacco delves deeper than the current debate, exploring the long, fraught relationship between the Dene, the Canadian government, and the land. The powerful middle chapters collect first-person stories of the atrocity haunting Sacco’s investigation: the mass forced separation of aboriginal children from their families to be “reeducated.” Separating young people from their communities, Sacco argues, robbed generations of identity and direction, as Sacco learns from the testimonies of Dene people from all walks of life, from tribal leaders and elders who grew up in close-knit nomadic tribes to a young man hunting his first caribou. Sacco’s densely composed, meticulous black-and-white art has grown even more realistic and carefully observed in this work, though he still presents himself as a caricature with buckteeth and Coke-bottle glasses. He wisely withdraws his presence to the background, allowing the Dene and other locals he interviews to take the spotlight, interspersing close-ups of faces with images of the breathtaking northern vistas. Sacco again proves himself a master of comics journalism. Agent: Nicole Aragi, Aragi (July)
"A tour de force . . . luminous . . . Joe Sacco's large-scale panels teem with detail, visual and verbal . . . What begins as an exploration of the effects of fracking on Native lands sprawls into a haunted history of an entire civilization." —Ed Park,
The New York Times Book Review"Nuanced, highly sensitive journalism . . . Sacco’s measured artwork lets the Dene people speak for themselves, working in tandem with the historical and sociopolitical context that he deftly interweaves." — The Times Literary Supplement "Anyone trying to wrap their heads around Thanksgiving myths about Pilgrims and Indians while also acknowledging their role in the occupation of lands stolen from indigenous people and the continued demand for fossil fuels and other resources that has brought us to a state of climate emergency needs to read this incredible work of comics journalism by a masterful researcher, storyteller, and artist." —Thi Bui, Marin Independent Journal "It has been more than ten years since Joe Sacco, one of our greatest living graphic journalists, has produced a full-length work, and the wait has been worth it. . . . an immersive exploration that casts its net across a broad panoply of topics while still hewing to the granular details that make Sacco’s work so rewarding."— Minneapolis Star Tribune "Magisterial . . . Paying the Land details a painful and tragic history, but in it Sacco finds images of hope for the Dene people and, by their example, for a world facing environmental collapse." — The Brooklyn Rail "Such a powerful book." — Book Riot "To say that Joe Sacco is the greatest practitioner of comics journalism working today is an understatement. . . . Paying the Land may well represent the greatest work he has ever done." — Comics Journal "What are the Dene willing to sacrifice to sustain themselves? Deeply observed and masterfully drawn, Paying the Land brings light to dark corners of the world and to the human condition." — Orion Magazine "Impassioned . . . Joe Sacco winds the most complex story of his career into a finely tuned narrative loop . . . An immediacy runs through the work." —The Literary Review of CanadaTender " . . . moving . . . fabulously drawn . . . The book recreated the immensity of the Northwest Territories in an astounding array of tightly knit crosshatched lines." — Galleries West "[Sacco's] finest, most layered work to date." — World Literature Today "Sacco goes where important conflicts rage . . . We are lucky he ventures into these spaces, because the insights he shares offer important lessons in understanding and compassion . . . Nuance and plurality dominate this narrative, and that's important because it's so often omitted from settler journalist coverage of Indigenous topics." — PopMatters "The richly detailed, meticulously rendered black-and-white illustrations truly shine. . . . Sacco wisely allows the Dene to carry the narrative, and his distinctive style brings their voices vividly off the page." —Eric Liebetrau, Kirkus Reviews"A stunning, important piece of work." — Daily Cartoonist "Extraordinary . . . masterful . . . a startling depiction of an Indigenous people struggling to remain true to their traditions. Yet another triumph for Sacco." — Kirkus (starred review) "An arresting exploration of a community on the brink. . . . meticulous . . . Sacco again proves himself a master of comics journalism." — Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Impressively detailed reporting . . . This is a vitally important story about an underrepresented people." — Library Journal (starred review) "Sacco is a talent entirely unto himself, applying an exquisitely fine eye for detail to the urgent histories that define the world around us. . . . Now, Sacco brings that eye to the lives of the Dene people in the Canadian subarctic, getting the full picture as only he can." —Jonny Diamond, Literary Hub
For generations, the Dene lived in tight-knit communities with a strong sense of tradition tying them to one another and the land. In this exhaustive study of the Dene Nation's history and current way of life, Sacco (
Footnotes in Gaza) asks, "Why do the indigenous people of the Northwest Territories seem adrift, unmoored from the culture that once anchored them?" A partial answer is provided via firsthand accounts of the Canadian government's deeply shameful attempt to assimilate Dene children by forcing them to attend schools where they experienced emotional and physical abuse, and the legacy of abuse and addiction attributed to this experience. Sacco also explores the ramifications of oil, gas, and diamond mining in the area, which some Dene embrace as an economic opportunity, and others find exploitative and ecologically disastrous. VERDICT Sacco's reporting, accompanied by impressively drawn black-and-white illustrations, is occasionally overwhelmingly detailed, but with good reason: this is a vitally important story about an underrepresented people.
An epic graphic study of an Indigenous people trying to survive between tradition and so-called progress.
Eisner Award winner Sacco’s
Palestine (2001) and Footnotes in Gaza (2009) are classics of contemporary graphic journalism. This is his first book since the stunning The Great War: July 1, 1916 (2013), and it’s well worth the wait. The author and illustrator spent six weeks reporting with the Dene people, a native society with deep roots in the Mackenzie River Valley in Canada’s Northwest Territories. Partly oral history and partly a compassionate portrait, the narrative recounts the people’s transition from a culture that respected and lived off the land to one faced with challenges that threaten to erase the fundamentals of their culture. Sacco portrays the Dene’s old ways with his extraordinary illustrations, vividly showing how they once lived. The title comes from citizen Frederick Andrew’s memories from his youth. “You give it something,” he says. “A bullet, perhaps, water, tobacco or tea. It’s like visiting someone. You bring the land a gift.” Many readers will be distressed by the many indignities that modern society has visited upon the Dene people. The recent phenomenon of fracking creates division between those who see economic opportunities and those who believe the practice is a defilement of their land. Sacco also portrays in stark relief the pervasiveness of problems stemming from substance abuse. Another theme involves the arrival of the first airplane, the signal that Canada intended to remove Dene children to residential schools that “were essentially used as a weapon for assimilation and acculturation and Christianization.” The children also suffered horrific abuse from both teachers and other students. Part of what makes Sacco’s portrayal so masterful is his proficiency as a journalist; he uses the real words of Dene citizens to tell their stories, augmenting them with his extraordinary artistic insight.
A startling depiction of an Indigenous people struggling to remain true to their traditions. Yet another triumph for Sacco.