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The Silence of Our Friends


The Silence of Our Friends Cover

ISBN13: 9781596436183
ISBN10: 1596436182
Condition: Standard
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Courtesy of Mother Daughter Book Club com, March 12, 2012 (view all comments by Courtesy of Mother Daughter Book Club com)
Houston in 1968 was a volatile place with strained relations between blacks and whites. Schools were integrated just a few years before and the unrest there reflected much of what was happening in other parts of the country as well. Into this fray enters the white family of a television cameraman who makes friends with a black activist who was editor of an anti-poverty weekly.

The Silence of Our Friends, by Mark Long, Jim Demonakos and Nate Powell is based on the real life story of author Long’s father, who was the cameraman, and the events that took place around a protest that led to a police officer’s death and the trial of the men arrested for it.

The black and white images in this graphic novel reflect many things from the era: television was in black and white, blacks and whites held preconceived notions about each other, and race lines were usually drawn so that you were either for or against one side or the other. Children often see things as their parents do, and this book is particularly poignant when it shows the children of both families interacting with each other and with others in their own neighborhoods.

The simple act of a white family inviting a black family to dinner, or vice versa, was unheard of, and breaking the unwritten code could be dangerous. The title of the book is taken from the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., quote, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies…but the silence of our friends.” It is a fitting title, and the book challenges readers to really consider the courage it takes to speak up in a place where everything encourages you to keep silent.

I recommend The Silence of Our Friends for ages 14 and up.

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Andrew Shuping, January 1, 2012 (view all comments by Andrew Shuping)
Every so often a book will come along that will challenge you, that will make you think, and that will hopefully leave you a bit better after you’ve read it. And this is just one such book. And yes some people are probably thinking that’s high praise for a graphic novel, but the story will give you chills within the first three pages and suck you in and not let you go until the very end of the story.

It’s 1968 in Houston, Texas and the fight for civil rights is heating up. Young Mark Long’s father, Jack Long, is the local TV station's race reporter and he’s embedded into the third ward, one of the poorest parts of the town. Jack is attempting to cover the events occurring in town, such as the expulsion of the the SNCC (student nonviolent coordinating committee) from Texas State University, and do justice to the people that he’s covering. He’s saved at one event by Larry Thompson, a local black leader, and the two become friends and their lives intertwine. One white family from a notoriously racist neighborhood in the burbs and one black family from the poorest ward in Houston, come together and find common ground in a conflict that threatens to tear the city apart. But before the end it may all come crashing down with the arrest of the TSU five. Which will be the loudest before the end, the words of hate or the silence of friends? This semi-autobiographical tale is based upon true events of Mark Long’s father.

One of the problem that I normally see with autobiographical stories, like this one, is that they often try to give the reader to much information about the story and invariably the reader gets lost or there are moment that leave us wondering why we’re supposed to care about the story. But this book...this book doesn’t have that issue. The authors have focused the story upon specific events of the race issues affecting the town in a given time period and give you enough information that you understand where the characters are coming from, but it never lets you wander away from what the focus of the story is. And more importantly you don’t ever feel like you’re missing out on something.

My favorite part of the storytelling though is how we get to see the story from two different perspectives--a white family from a racist neighborhood and a black family from one of poorest areas of Houston. Living in many ways on opposite sides of the world and yet we get to see the overlap and the differences between the two families clearly. And while that may sound like a cheesey way or stereotypical way of telling the story, Mark Long and Jim Demonakos tell the story in such a deft manner that you don’t really see it being told that way. You see the characters as real people. You get to understand a bit of what they went through, the troubles that each family faced for the actions they took and didn’t take, and that you want to know them in real life--just so that you could learn more from them. One last thought about the story--the title of the book comes from a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. "In the end, We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” And this book does justice to those words.

Nate Powell’s artwork is absolutely gorgeous. It’s done in his typical grace/style of capturing the human form oh so perfectly and it seems like this time he’s gone even further in his use of shading to give us the beauty of all different types of skin tones, each character’s is unqiue. His artwork is perfectly suited for this story capturing the range and intensity of emotions--the sorrow, the joy, and the fear that sends chills down your spine. That intensity, that feeling of life that he captures in their faces really makes them come alive. And the last pages of the books are some of the most powerful of the book. It seems like a rather basic layout of people walking in the street, with a closeup so that you can see the people’s skin tones--both black and white, and you can see their faces. But then he starts pulling back and all you can see are forms of people all different sizes, both genders, and all muted gray. No race and no color to divide them, just one people.

You can’t help but feel moved by this story and you can’t walk away unchanged. The combination of story and art works perfectly in capturing this event and this time period. I’m predicting this book will be one of the best graphic novels of the year, perhaps even one of the best books of the year.

A review copy of this book was provided by Gina at FirstSecond
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Product Details

Long, Mark
First Second
Demonakos, Jim
Powell, Nate
Graphic Novels-Literary
Graphic Novels-Nonfiction
Edition Description:
Graphic Novels
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
from 6 up to 12
Black-and-white illustrations throughout
8.5 x 6 in 1 lb
Age Level:
from 11 up to 18

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The Silence of Our Friends Used Trade Paper
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Product details 208 pages First Second - English 9781596436183 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "From the opening scene, this graphic novel written by Long and Demonakos is compelling. Set in Houston in 1968, it tells the story of two families — one black and one white — who are witness to and participants in events that shaped the South in the late 1960s. The novel is a loosely autobiographical account of the Long family, who moved from San Antonio to Houston in 1966, and experienced the protests, violence, and struggle for freedom that characterized the Third and Fifth Wards. Long's father had moved to Houston to take a job as a local television reporter, and there he met Larry Thomas, the editor of an antipoverty weekly. This graphic novel presents an engrossing narrative about race in America, while honestly dealing with a host of other real-world issues, including familial relationships, friendship, dependency, 'other'-ness, and perhaps most importantly, the search for common ground. Powell — an award-winning cartoonist in his own right for Swallow Me Whole — tells a story in pictures that is just as compelling as what Long and Demonakos tell in words. (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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