From the opening scene, this graphic novel written by Long and Demonakos is compelling. Set in Houston in 1968, it tells the story of two families—one black and one white—who are witness to and participants in events that shaped the South in the late 1960s. The novel is a loosely autobiographical account of the Long family, who moved from San Antonio to Houston in 1966, and experienced the protests, violence, and struggle for freedom that characterized the Third and Fifth Wards. Long’s father had moved to Houston to take a job as a local television reporter, and there he met Larry Thomas, the editor of an antipoverty weekly. This graphic novel presents an engrossing narrative about race in America, while honestly dealing with a host of other real-world issues, including familial relationships, friendship, dependency, “other”-ness, and perhaps most importantly, the search for common ground. Powell—an award-winning cartoonist in his own right for Swallow Me Whole—tells a story in pictures that is just as compelling as what Long and Demonakos tell in words. (Jan.)
"…convincingly depicts the systemic racism, blatant and subtle, that suffused and corroded everything during [the] period…[Powell's] imagery amplifies the effects of the book's multiple perspectivesthe overwhelmed kid's-eye view of uneasy family dynamics and open Texas spaces, the hyperkinetic chaos on campus, the cropped literalism of TV newscasts." The New York Times
"...an engrossing narrative about race in America, while honestly dealing with a host of other real-world issues, including familial relationships, friendship, dependency, "other"-ness, and perhaps most importantly, the search for common ground." Publisher's Weekly
"A moving evocation of a tipping point in our country's regrettable history of race relations, Long and Demonakos's story flows perfectly in Eisner and Ignatz Award winner Powell's graceful and vivid yet unpretty black-and-gray wash." School Library Journal
In the tradition of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis (Pantheon, 2003) and Art Speiglman's Maus (Pantheon, 1993/VOYA June 1992), Long's graphic novel is a fictionalized account about living in Houston in 1968. His family moved to Houston from San Antonio due to his father's job as a television reporter. Because Jack Long covered the barrio in San Antonio, he gets labeled as the "race reporter" and is sent to cover the demonstrations on the Texas Southern University campus. They live in a very racist neighborhood, where the Klan attaches fliers to the doorknobs. One of the spokespeople of the TSU demonstration is a black professor, Larry Thompson, who lives in one of the poorest wards across the "color line." Thompson's wife and neighbors are as militantly racist as Jack Long's neighbors, but the two men realize that the only way things are going to change is to come to a common understanding and communication. This begins with Long and his wife reaching out to Thompson's family with an invitation to their house. Covering a time period of societal unrest from Viet Nam to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Silence uses realistic black-and-white illustrations to convey a subject that is not black and white. The novel could be useful in a history or sociology course for advanced students. The language, although accurate to the time, is a powder keg and will create more problems than it is probably worth. It should, even with that potential, be in the collection. Reviewer: Suanne Roush
Local TV reporting was not a glam gig in the late 1960s, especially when it covers racial ferment in the South. Long grew up in a KKK-leaning white Texas neighborhood, and his family walked a dangerous path in befriending an African American couple involved in the civil rights movement. In this lightly fictionalized account, Long's reporter father overcomes hesitation and supervisor prejudice to provide testimony that helped free five students accused of killing a white policeman during a sit-in at Texas Southern University. The sit-in was intended to protest harassment by hostile locals who had injured a black child while driving dangerously and yelling insults along the campus main drag. The title derives from a Martin Luther King quote: "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends." VERDICT A moving evocation of a tipping point in our country's regrettable history of race relations, Long and Demonakos's story flows perfectly in Eisner and Ignatz Award winner Powell's (Swallow Me Whole) graceful and vivid yet unpretty black-and-gray wash. A concise time line would have been helpful as back matter. Great for history classes and interested readers, teen through adult.—M.C.
Gr 6 Up—The year 1968 was a tense time to be growing up in Houston. Mark Long, the white protagonist of this gripping graphic novel-like Mark Long, the author—is the son of the local TV station's "race reporter." The more contact his dad has with civil rights protesters and law enforcement, the more motivated he becomes to speak up against racism at work and at home. Bigotry, police brutality, and civilian violence, as well as nonviolent marches and sit-ins, are depicted from the point of view of young Mark, his father, and a black activist and his family who become acquainted with the Longs. Well-chosen scenes—among them a prison rodeo and a black church service—move the story along while illuminating it from many angles. Dialogue is so natural as to be completely unobtrusive. Powell uses a mixture of large and small panels along with a variety of frame compositions and points of view to give the book a cinematic realism. From this intimate vantage point, racist incidents are shockingly ugly, while happy domestic moments—as when the kids from both families belt out "Soul Man"—are unself-consciously beautiful. The youthful protagonist and graphic-novel format will plunge readers into a time that can seem very distant. Ideal as a class read, absorbing for solo readers.—Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson, MD
…convincingly depicts the systemic racism, blatant and subtle, that suffused and corroded everything during [the] period…[Popwell's] imagery amplifies the effects of the book's multiple perspectivesthe overwhelmed kid's-eye view of uneasy family dynamics and open Texas spaces, the hyperkinetic chaos on campus, the cropped literalism of TV newscasts.
The New York Times