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Thoughts on books, often interpreted through the high-brow prism of cartoon (read: Archer) references. Wait! I had something for this...

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Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography

Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography - Andrew Helfer, Randy DuBurke

Not too long after finishing Americanah, I chanced upon this graphic novel when perusing my local digital library. Conceptually, I love the idea of a graphic biography and (this is where the Americanah thing becomes relevant) was particularly interested to see how one might take on a racially-charged discourse. Given the amazing, iconic images of the Civil Rights movement, my expectations were pretty high.

 

As you may have guessed from my dearth of stars, I was a bit disappointed. First of all, I don't know how 112 pages could feel so long, but they did. If it weren't for library due dates, I might still be trudging through this. 

 

The author begins by challenging  Malcolm X's autobiographical truth, which is fine- but things just felt "weird" (for lack of a better term). There was a way in which the narrative seemed couched in certain racial clichés which, again, is fine (I'm no expert, and facts are facts- I found this review to be much better informed than anything I could produce), but there seemed to be a lack of nuance.

 

Malcolm's mother is the black woman, too proud to take handouts, willing to see her children suffer to such an extent that the "safety net" of the state had to swoop in to take control.

Malcolm X Graphic Bio  4

 

As Malcolm moves to the next stage of his life, he learns to live the life of the hustler which, among other things, involves getting your hair straightened- a moment that comes off as being clownish in manner.

 

Malcolm X Graphic Bio  2

It was also at this point that i lost all ability to discern characters visually. I get it, Malcolm was evolving, but it was downright confusing. For example, in the montage cell below, is that supposed to be Malcolm three times? If so, which one(s) is/are he/him? 

 

Malcolm X Graphic Bio

 

The story arc I enjoyed most, visually speaking, was Malcolm's becoming disillusioned with Elijah Muhammad (of the Nation of Islam- NOI). Here, the illustrations give the reader a hook to just how different a person can seem as one's understanding evolves. 

 

Muhammad gone bad Malcolm X Graphic Biography