The Silence of Our Friends by Mark Long

(Reading Challenge: Great Graphic Novels)

silenceAs seems to be the case with graphic novels, I never would have picked this up on my own, but because it was on the list I did and I’m glad. Also, this is published by First Second and I pretty much love everything they put out. They just publish consistently high quality engaging interesting graphic novels.

So this is a story about civil right in the late 1960s in Texas.  It is based on Mark Long’s memories of his life and incidents. I suppose it is somewhat fictionalized (and his note at the end goes into that), but basic facts are accurate. Mark is white and his dad is a reporter. They live in a very segregated part of Texas and while his family is teaching their children to respect all people and not use the N word, they are oddities in their neighborhood for it. The casual racism is really upsetting to read about. Upsetting because I doubt it was exaggerated and it’s astonishing and horrible to think that people thought it was ok to behave that way. And Texas, this look back is not improving your image to me. Police officers wildly and randomly shooting into a dormitory? Believing that black people are out to get you and who cares if they die?

What I liked about this book, and what was so moving, was the real struggle you see in Mark’s dad and his black friend Larry.  They are uneasy friends, both wanting to be “men of conscience”, but struggling against bosses, the media, friends, family, and ingrained racism.  This was a wonderful look at both the big picture of civil rights in the U.S. and a closer look at how that played out in two families.  I really liked the use of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words in the text as they were illustrated by the actions of Larry and Jack.

Definitely recommended. I think it would be great if this were used in history classes.

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