An African-American teen explores the way his life has been affected by his imprisoned relative and racial profiling.
Fifteen-year-old Johnathan Harris tells his story in a graphic format that enhances his young voice. Johnathan and his close-knit working-class family (mom’s a nurse, dad’s a probation officer) live in Long Beach, California, but one of the biggest influences in his life, his uncle Russell, is serving time in Chuckawalla Valley State Prison, four hours away. “Crazy, right? My dad works in law enforcement and my uncle’s in jail.” Despite this, Johnathan’s uncle provides guidance during visits and via other communication, encouraging him to understand and appreciate both his culture and those of others. Both early trauma and incidents as an older child playing soccer and in Boy Scouts make Johnathan question his uncle’s efforts to get him to relinquish skin color prejudice, but he is ultimately able to hold onto those teachings. This memoir has a strong authentic youth voice and reflects a young teen’s perspective. The full-color graphics are a strong accompaniment, often using visual metaphor. The concept of “colorblindness” is a dubious one, but it is Johnathan’s efforts to avoid racial bitterness as he grows into manhood that come through. This volume, part of a series of graphic novels written by young adults, includes additional biographical information, information for parents, and teacher support (through the publisher’s website).
One teen’s vision of hope shines through. (Graphic memoir. 11-14)