A lively, inspirational tale that will point young readers toward art, music, and resistance of their own.

A sometimes bitter and brittle, always heartfelt memoir of growing up as a Black punk rocker in rural California.

“Apple Valley, California, like most of small town America, sucks.” So writes Spooner in this probing graphic memoir. The high desert of the title is a place where “you can count on dirt, desolation, and despair.” As the author reveals, you can also count on the anomie that leads some kids to drugs, some to suicide, some to neo-Nazism. His White mother, “raising a black son on her own,” coped as best she could to protect the young man. There was plenty of harm to face, with an absence of role models and plenty of reasons to keep one’s head down to avoid the inevitable high school bullying. Spooner found solace in punk rock and its accouterments—mohawk haircut, combat boots, etc.—all of which only drew more attention to him. There weren’t many role models in punk, either, for a young man of color, even though bands like Black Flag had “two tone” and minority members—all good reason to found a punk band of his own. Spooner is a discerning student of his own past and the movement he joined. As he notes, punk was steeped in politics, especially of the intersectional sort that rejected racism, sexism, homophobia, and Reagan-era retrograde culture. “Punk positioned me to listen,” he writes. A sojourn in New York to visit his father, an award-winning professional bodybuilder from St. Lucia, occasioned an encounter with even more political punks, to say nothing of Joey Ramone, and helped him launch a number of zines as well as a record label. “This is what punk inspired,” he writes at the close of his eloquent latter-day rejoinder to Chuck Klosterman’s Fargo Rock City.

A lively, inspirational tale that will point young readers toward art, music, and resistance of their own.

Pub Date: May 17, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-358-65911-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022


An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

The Book of Genesis as imagined by a veteran voice of underground comics.

R. Crumb’s pass at the opening chapters of the Bible isn’t nearly the act of heresy the comic artist’s reputation might suggest. In fact, the creator of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural is fastidiously respectful. Crumb took pains to preserve every word of Genesis—drawing from numerous source texts, but mainly Robert Alter’s translation, The Five Books of Moses (2004)—and he clearly did his homework on the clothing, shelter and landscapes that surrounded Noah, Abraham and Isaac. This dedication to faithful representation makes the book, as Crumb writes in his introduction, a “straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes.” But his efforts are in their own way irreverent, and Crumb feels no particular need to deify even the most divine characters. God Himself is not much taller than Adam and Eve, and instead of omnisciently imparting orders and judgment He stands beside them in Eden, speaking to them directly. Jacob wrestles not with an angel, as is so often depicted in paintings, but with a man who looks not much different from himself. The women are uniformly Crumbian, voluptuous Earth goddesses who are both sexualized and strong-willed. (The endnotes offer a close study of the kinds of power women wielded in Genesis.) The downside of fitting all the text in is that many pages are packed tight with small panels, and too rarely—as with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—does Crumb expand his lens and treat signature events dramatically. Even the Flood is fairly restrained, though the exodus of the animals from the Ark is beautifully detailed. The author’s respect for Genesis is admirable, but it may leave readers wishing he had taken a few more chances with his interpretation, as when he draws the serpent in the Garden of Eden as a provocative half-man/half-lizard. On the whole, though, the book is largely a tribute to Crumb’s immense talents as a draftsman and stubborn adherence to the script.

An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-393-06102-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009


Drawings, words, and a few photos combine to convey the depth of a tragedy that would leave most people dumbstruck.

A new life and book arise from the ashes of a devastating California wildfire.

These days, it seems the fires will never end. They wreaked destruction over central California in the latter months of 2018, dominating headlines for weeks, barely a year after Fies (Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow?, 2009) lost nearly everything to the fires that raged through Northern California. The result is a vividly journalistic graphic narrative of resilience in the face of tragedy, an account of recent history that seems timely as ever. “A two-story house full of our lives was a two-foot heap of dead smoking ash,” writes the author about his first return to survey the damage. The matter-of-fact tone of the reportage makes some of the flights of creative imagination seem more extraordinary—particularly a nihilistic, two-page centerpiece of a psychological solar system in which “the fire is our black hole,” and “some veer too near and are drawn into despair, depression, divorce, even suicide,” while “others are gravitationally flung entirely out of our solar system to other cities or states, and never seen again.” Yet the stories that dominate the narrative are those of the survivors, who were part of the community and would be part of whatever community would be built to take its place across the charred landscape. Interspersed with the author’s own account are those from others, many retirees, some suffering from physical or mental afflictions. Each is rendered in a couple pages of text except one from a fellow cartoonist, who draws his own. The project began with an online comic when Fies did the only thing he could as his life was reduced to ash and rubble. More than 3 million readers saw it; this expanded version will hopefully extend its reach.

Drawings, words, and a few photos combine to convey the depth of a tragedy that would leave most people dumbstruck.

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3585-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Abrams ComicArts

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018