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Strange Fruit, Volume 1: 02/20/15

cover art

Strange Fruit, Volume 1 by Joel Christian Gill is a graphic novel history of African Americans. Covered in this book are: Henry Box Brown (who mailed himself to the North), the Noyes Academy (first integrated school), Marshall Taylor (The Black Cyclone), a chess champion, an aviator during WWI, Malagara Island, and Bass Reeves (a lawman in the frontier).

It's one of those books that at first glance is deceptively simple. The comic book formatting and the occasional asides to define a word gives the impression of a children's history book or a simplified classic like those "Illustrated Classics" comic books that were popular when I was in grade school. Yet the artwork brings new meaning to perhaps abstract concepts to today's school child — Jim Crow laws being represented by massive, monstrous crows, for example.

Each story is a mixture of a life story and the person's biggest or most memorable accomplishment. The stories are short and succinct but the book provides further information in the form of brief biographies. Of the stories my favorites were the chess one, and the one about Bass Reeves and how he tracked down criminals to remote places.

Five stars

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