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Natasha Donovan

Surviving the City: From the Roots Up

This is a short sequel to Surviving the City which was a powerful graphic novel about two young First Nations women in Canada that face the perils of being Indigenous in the city together. We are reunited with Miikwan and Dez, after the death of Dez’s grandmother. Dez is struggling with their foster home placement and acts out, although a bright spot is that they and an Indigenous girl have begun a tentative new relationship. Dez is also coming to grips with being a Two-Spirit person and letting Miikwan and others in the community know. As everyone prepares for an upcoming pow-wow, Dez let the elders know that they don’t wish to follow the strict gender rules that are in place.

This was another well-done story that showcases the modern Indigenous experience, yet I did find it heavy-handed. In the last book, the author and illustrator effectively showcase dead Native women as spirits surrounding their loved ones and dark alien-type creatures besides men that wish these women harm, and they did so again, but too much so. Although I thought this was too much a message book, I believe a YA audience will find it appealing, informative and inspiring.

Wonderful Women of the World

Women change the world…what a perfect topic for Women’s History Month!

Various authors and artists have come together in this collection to honor real-life women. The women are grouped under categories such as strength, compassion, justice, truth, and equality- the virtues that Wonder Woman stands for.

This book is a mixed bag- as all collections are when you pull in different styles of storytelling and art. I was familiar with some of them, as several have written or illustrated other books in the DC Graphic Novels for Young Adults line.

My favs were:

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Dissent- the iconic Supreme Court Justice who fought injustice and was a role-model for all! The story highlighted some of her more famous cases such as birth control, voting rights and marriage equality.

Keiko Agena: Asian America’s BFF- The author is an Asian American who always felt left out until she saw actress Agena on the tv series Gilmore Girls. The representation felt inspiring, and helped allow the author herself to explore and grow in her profession.

Ellen Ochoa: Destination Space- Ochoa was determined to be an astronaut, and when turned down, doubled down on her training to learn the skills that NASA was looking for. I loved the group picture that showcased other women astronauts that represented firsts such as Sally Ride and Mae Jemison and included Ochoa as the first Latina in space.

Judith Heumann: How to Ignite a Spark- Heumann is a disabled woman fighting for Disability Rights. The story includes references to landmark cases that have moved forward legal rights for those who are disabled. Her advocacy helped push through Section 504- the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Edith Windsor: How One Women’s Love Changed a Nation- Windsor was in a long-term lesbian relationship, but the two were denied the right to marry. When her partner died and she legally was not recognized, she went all the way to the Supreme Court to fight for marriage equality. The illustration style was among my favorites in this collection.

Mari Copeny: Fighting for Flint- Copeny is a youth who helped bring awareness to the contaminated water that plagues Flint, Michigan. Her letter to President Obama brought attention to the community and she helped raise thousands of dollars to bring clean bottled water to the city. Her youthful passion has made a difference!

Leiomy Maldonado: Generational- showcases two different transgender individuals during different years colored blue vs red, and reveals how people have an easier time now than years ago in being true to themselves. Maldonado is featured at the end, as both unite in awe of her.

Despite the worthy intent of this book with some great biographies, I sadly was not impressed, for it seemed to be trying too hard. For a fantastic collection of short stories about women from history, read Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked The World by Pénélope Bagieu instead.

-Nancy

Surviving the City

This is a short but powerful graphic novel about two young First Nations women in Canada that face the perils of being Indigenous in the city together.

Best friends at school, Miikwan is Anishinaabe, while Dez is Inninew.  The two high schoolers bond is so tight that they completed a berry fast together, which is a rite of womanhood in their tribes. Despite their close friendship, they have each faced great trauma in their lives. Miikwan’s mother is missing and presumed dead, while Dez lives with her elderly grandmother who is facing health problems, and social services is planning on moving her into foster care.

Dez briefly runs away as Miikwan gets involved in a protest to bring attention to the crisis of stolen sisters. What makes this story especially poignant was the effective use of showing dead Native women as spirits surrounding their loved ones, and dark alien type creatures besides men that wish these woman harm. While the girls could not see these unearthly creatures, the readers could, and it ramped up the tension as you desperately hoped the girls would avoid the evil that seemed to be near them often on the city streets.

The artwork was well done, showcasing the diversity of Indigenous tribes, and spotlighting that not all tribe members live on reservations. The color palate was in warm earthen tones, and the panels flowed well on the pages, with some lovely imagery. As a stated above, the unseen presences surrounding the girls elevated the story, and drew you into their world. It also clearly showed the pride and connection they each felt about their cultural heritage, which was a direct message from the author and illustrator, who both have Native ancestry.

An afterward explained some information about the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and gave some excellent statistics and further reading suggestions. I do wish this afterward had included even more information. While I have some knowledge of berry fasts and two-spirit people, I really don’t think many people outside the Indigenous community will be familiar with these terms. Some explanation within the preceding narrative text, or in the afterwards should have been added. For two other well done graphic novels about other aspects of modern Indigenous life, read The Outside Circle and Roughneck.

I applaud this book for the awareness it brings to the plight of Indigenous women and the families they leave behind. Please do further research on the crisis they face, for this situation is also present in the United States, and needs to be acknowledged.

-Nancy

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