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Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: A Graphic History of Women’s Fight for Their Rights

Here in graphic novel form is a history of women and their struggle to earn rights. Women warriors, rulers, writers, speakers, leaders, of all colors, from antiquity to today, are included. The name, years of birth and death, a portrait, and a short story or biography (including direct writings or quotes were applicable) are included for each woman.

The overall narrative is constructed as an AI classroom, in which school girls asked about how women got the right to vote. As the AI teacher shows us, women’s right to vote was very closely entwined with other rights: labor, birth control, civil, and disability. The fictional girls in the story learn from the immersive AI environment, but also from each other.

Though text-heavy and stuffed full of information, I found it to be an easier read than expected. The time stamps were very helpful. There are also chapter breaks, often with a fun two-page spread of a big scene with multiple women related to that chapter title. Trying to guess all the real and fictional character was a lot like playing “Where’s Waldo”! Each chapter (for the most part) followed a different time period, and the art would change slightly accordingly to reflect that time. It would even change within chapters according to place: for example, going from the Mayan Empire to the Vikings to the Celtic Empire.

What surprised me the most was simply how many women were featured here. Most were given 1-2 pages dedicated just to them; some, like women of the Civil Rights movement, were grouped together on one page. The writings and quotes accompanying each woman made reading about them so much more interesting and immediate. A great deal of research was done for this book to show, rather than just tell, how women created and continue to create change. Highly recommended.

– Kathleen

Kendall, Mikki, and A. D’Amico. Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: A Graphic History of Women’s Fight for Their Rights. 2019.

Magus of the Library (Vol. 1)

Theo Fumis is a young boy who is a little… different. He has long ears that are a different shape than everyone else in his village. He also lives in the slums with his sister, who works to put him through school. Theo is a smart boy, and more than anything else in the world, he loves to read books. Unfortunately, the library in his village doesn’t allow those living in the slums to use it, leaving Theo to sneak in and out whenever he wants to read. He longs for adventure, for a hero to whisk him away, and perhaps to join the Great Library himself someday. Four kafna – librarians from the Great Library – visit his village to check on the library’s status. One in particular, Sedona Bleu, opens his eyes to the great wide world ahead of him – and shows him that sometimes, we need to be our own hero.

I have to admit, I checked this out from work out of curiosity. A manga with lead librarian characters? Sign me up! I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did.

The setting is pretty interesting. It’s a mix of fantasy and history with Middle Eastern and Indian elements (which, if I’m being honest, is a cocktail of all of my favorite things!). The architecture and character’s clothes have the elaborate, decorative detail found in those cultures. Social standings of the characters appear to be determined by the Indian caste system. Though we know Theo comes from a poor family, his heritage remains a secret. In this story, humans and mythical creatures live side-by-side, so I am eager to both see more of this world and discover who Theo really is.

The linework of this graphic novel is incredibly tight and precise. It has to be, in order to fit all the intricate decorative elements mentioned previously, but the precision suggests that this is not Mitsu Izumi’s first rodeo. The only complaint I have is that sometimes the flow of the panels isn’t always intuitive. I got confused at more than a few parts by reading ahead or behind where I was supposed to. Perhaps this can be attributed by my novice manga-reading skills.

All in all I was just as impressed with the art as I was the blending of many different elements to create a promising story – which just happens to also star librarians 😉

– Kathleen

Izumi, Mitsu. Magus of the Library (Vol. 1). 2019.

Hark! A Vagrant

Hark! A Vagrant has awesome riffs on history and literature, and is done so in an intelligent and hilarious manner.

Author Kate Beaton who is now a regular contributor to the New Yorker, was formally a history major and worked in museums for a time, now takes her sharp wit and skewers historical and literary figures with a modern lens.  Beaton illustrates mostly in black and white, and sketches out caricatures of recognizable people in absurd situations. Her ironic strips point out the foibles of the past, and how that would play out in modern day. No one is immune from her humor- as she pokes fun at Edgar Allen Poe, Jules Verne, David Bowie, St. Francis, Ben Franklin, Andrew Jackson, many European kings and queens plus so many others.  I found the satire surrounding the characters of well loved novels the most amusing and picked just a few to highlight.

Why do some women love bad boys? Heathcliff was horrible! Not brooding, not sexy, not misunderstood…he was an ass! Sorry Brontë sisters, but your romantic leads suck.

Case in point- are we supposed to be rooting for the marriage of a guy who locks his mentally ill wife in the attic???

As a girl, I was so into the Nancy Drew books…she had my name, people! However they were terribly dated, and these explanations of the content are hilarious!

I could add dozens more, but why, when you can go to her website yourself and check these smart cartoons out yourself! I would definitely recommend this witty collection of strips, especially if you have rolled your eyes at a ridiculous plot point, literary trope or questionable historical fact. Enjoy!

-Nancy

** You can usually tell when I have less time to blog and I review comic collections instead of graphic novels. I have been very swamped with family, work and grad school commitments, so my recent posts reflect my lack of time. In fact, I am fitting in this blog during my lunch break at a library conference I am at this weekend. Hope to have some reviews based off longer books soon!

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