A debut graphic memoir provides a unique child’s perspective on racial strife in 1960s Alabama.
Weaver came to America from Argentina in 1961 at the age of 5 and found herself considered an outsider on both sides of the racial divide. Even within her family, there were subtle distinctions, with a mother whose European ancestry made her unmistakably white, a father considerably darker and an older sister who came much closer to an American ideal of beauty (though her voluptuous lips were considered suspect). The memoir is most compelling when it reflects this child’s perspective, in a town “neatly divided between black and white. Until we arrived. We introduced a sliver of gray into the demographic pie.” The illustrations are impressive throughout, as the author plainly learned much from a father who had a passion for photography and a mother who was a visual artist. Yet there are stretches where this narrative of violence and turbulence could have been written by another, more conventional observer, where the author disappears from her account of many incidents that she was too young to witness, let alone understand. At such points it reads more like a civil-rights primer (often with powerful imagery) than the account from an immigrant neither black nor white, “in America but not of America.” In the afterword, Weaver explains that this began as an undergraduate project by an adult student, one who is plainly an accomplished artist but who is still learning how to frame and sustain a cohesive narrative.
A powerful story of a tumultuous era by an author more adept at visual art than textual storytelling.