Difficult and necessary.




An account of a little-known Reconstruction-era massacre, how it came about, and its influence on U.S. history.

The prologue tells the story of the Colfax massacre itself, when over 100 black men were murdered by white supremacists in Louisiana in 1873. The book then backtracks to the early days of the U.S., chronicling individuals and events that would later affect the situation in Colfax: the formation of the Supreme Court, the Dred Scott decision, the racist attitudes of presidents Andrew Jackson and Andrew Johnson, the passionate abolitionist Radical Republican Thaddeus Stevens, the Ku Klux Klan, and more. While some moments of historical import help put the Colfax massacre in context, others are overly detailed, and readers may wonder if they are necessary at all. Colfax comes up again nearly halfway through the text, with lawyer J.R. Beckwith’s fight for justice for the slaughtered. His efforts were actively thwarted by the U.S. government, leading to the creation of the Jim Crow South. Despite being overly long, this book shines a light on a shameful sea change moment in U.S. history, although the message of injustice is weakened by the positive presentation of the Homestead Act which forcibly removed Native Americans from their land. Though the book ends abruptly, readers will come away with a thorough understanding of the Colfax massacre and its place in America’s past and present.

Difficult and necessary. (glossary, bibliography, source notes, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-23945-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic Focus

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today.


A beautifully heart-wrenching graphic-novel adaptation of actor and activist Takei’s (Lions and Tigers and Bears, 2013, etc.) childhood experience of incarceration in a World War II camp for Japanese Americans.

Takei had not yet started school when he, his parents, and his younger siblings were forced to leave their home and report to the Santa Anita Racetrack for “processing and removal” due to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. The creators smoothly and cleverly embed the historical context within which Takei’s family’s story takes place, allowing readers to simultaneously experience the daily humiliations that they suffered in the camps while providing readers with a broader understanding of the federal legislation, lawsuits, and actions which led to and maintained this injustice. The heroes who fought against this and provided support to and within the Japanese American community, such as Fred Korematsu, the 442nd Regiment, Herbert Nicholson, and the ACLU’s Wayne Collins, are also highlighted, but the focus always remains on the many sacrifices that Takei’s parents made to ensure the safety and survival of their family while shielding their children from knowing the depths of the hatred they faced and danger they were in. The creators also highlight the dangerous parallels between the hate speech, stereotyping, and legislation used against Japanese Americans and the trajectory of current events. Delicate grayscale illustrations effectively convey the intense emotions and the stark living conditions.

A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today. (Graphic memoir. 14-adult)

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60309-450-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Top Shelf Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2019

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This deeply personal and boldly political offering inspires and ignites.


From the Pocket Change Collective series

Curator, author, and activist Drew shares her journey as an artist and the lessons she has learned along the way.

Drew uses her own story to show how deeply intertwined activism and the arts can be. Her choices in college were largely overshadowed by financial need, but a paid summer internship at the Studio Museum in Harlem became a formative experience that led her to major in art history. The black artists who got her interested in the field were conspicuously absent in the college curriculum, however, as was faculty support, so she turned her frustration into action by starting her own blog to boost the work of black artists. After college, Drew’s work in several arts organizations, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, only deepened her commitment to making the art world more accessible to people of color and other marginalized groups, such as people with disabilities, and widening the scope of who is welcomed there. Drew narrates deeply personal experiences of frustration, triumph, progress, learning, and sometimes-uncomfortable growth in a conversational tone that draws readers in, showing how her specific lens enabled her to accomplish the work she has done but ultimately inviting readers to add their own contributions, however small, to both art and protest.

This deeply personal and boldly political offering inspires and ignites. (Nonfiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09518-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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