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Birth of a Nation: A Comic Novelby Aaron McGruder
Synopses & Reviews
Remember the Florida presidential election debacle of 2000? What if the same thing were to happen in East St. Louis? What if, as a result of the disenfranchisement of thousands of East St. Louis voters, a dim-witted, right-wing despot grabbed control of the Oval Office? And what if the dissed city seceded and declared itself the sovereign Republic of Blackland — with a national anthem sung to the tune of the theme from Good Times and a plan to finance itself by becoming an offshore-style money-laundering haven right in the American heartland?
Written by one of the country's leading political humorists and a pioneering black filmmaker and illustrated by one of today's most acclaimed graphic artists, Birth of a Nation takes the botched election of 2000 to an absurd (but not entirely impossible) conclusion, along the way hitting a range of hot political social, and cultural issues, skewering black nationalists, white supremacists, and everyone in between, drawing real blood and real laughs in equal measure.
"The Boondocks creator McGruder, filmmaker Hudlin and Why I Hate Saturn cartoonist Baker are a kind of dream team, and this work (drawn in Baker's animation-storyboard style) has a fairly hilarious premise. When the virtually all-black population of East St. Louis, Ill., is disenfranchised en masse in electoral shenanigans that result in a George W. Bush — like Texan governor being elected president, the impoverished city decides to secede from the U.S. Renaming itself 'Blackland,' the city becomes a wildly rich money-laundering capital. Baker is a gifted caricaturist — every facial expression and bit of body language he comes up with is funny — and the first two-thirds of the book is loaded with witty riffs (a national anthem to the tune of the Good Times theme; a fight over whether Tupac or Biggie should be on the nickel) and slyly ferocious jabs at institutional racism and a certain commander-in-chief. The final act, though, falls apart. The U.S. going to war with Blackland over a new alternative energy source should be a natural for comedy, but it bogs down in too-serious drama and a non sequitur battle. even McGruder and Hudlin's snappy dialogue loses steam. The workhas the air of an unproduced film treatment — a terrific concept with some impressive talent behind it but not enough follow-through to make it completely satisfying. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
This scathingly hilarious political satire—produced from a collaboration of three of our funniest humorists—answers the burning question: Would anyone care if East St. Louis seceded from the Union?
East St. Louis, Illinois (“the inner city without an outer city”), is an impoverished town, so poor that Fred Fredericks, its idealistic mayor, starts off Election Day by collecting the city’s trash in his own minivan. But the mayor believes in the power of democracy and rallies his fellow citizens to the polls for the presidential election, only to find hundreds of them turned away for trumped-up reasons. Even sweet old Miss Jackson—not to mention the mayor himself—is denied the vote because her name turns up on a bogus list of felons. The national election hinges on Illinois’s electoral votes and, as a result of the mass disenfranchisement of East St. Louis, a radical right-wing junta led by a dim-witted Texas governor seizes the Oval Office.
Prodded by shady black billionaire and old friend John Roberts, Fredericks devises a radical plan of protest: East St. Louis will secede from the Union. Roberts opens an “offshore” bank (albeit in the heart of the U.S.) to finance the newly liberated country, and suddenly East St. Louis becomes the Switzerland of the American heartland, flush with money. It also begins to attract a motley circus of idealistic young militants, OPEC-funded hitmen, CIA operatives, tabloid reporters, and AWOL black servicemen eager to protect and serve the new nation.
Problems set in almost immediately: Controversies rage over the name and national anthem of the new country (they decide on the Republic of Blackland with an anthem sung to the tune of the theme from Good Times), and local thug Roscoe becomes a warlord and turns his gang into a paramilitary force. When the U.S. military begins to move in, Fredericks is forced to decide whether his protest is worth taking all the way.
Birth of a Nation starts with a scenario drawn from the botched election of 2000 and spins it into a brilliantly absurd work of sharply pointed satire. Along the way the authors lay into a host of hot social and cultural issues—skewering white supremacists, black nationalists, and everyone in between—drawing real blood and real laughs in equal measure in this riotous send-up of American politics.
About the Author
AARON McGRUDER is the creator of The Boondocks comic strip and the author of the national bestseller A Right to Be Hostile.
REGINALD HUDLIN has written, produced, or directed eight films, including House Party, Boomerang, and Bebe’s Kids.
KYLE BAKER is the author of several classic graphic novels, and his illustrations have appeared in publications nationwide.
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