Synopses & Reviews
Strange Fruit, Volume I is a collection of stories from African American history that exemplifies success in the face of great adversity. This unique graphic anthology offers historical and cultural commentary on nine uncelebrated heroes whose stories are not often found in history books. Among the stories included are: Henry "Box" Brown, who escaped from slavery by mailing himself to Philadelphia; Alexander Crummel and the Noyes Academy, the first integrated school in America, established in the 1830s; Marshall "Major" Taylor, a.k.a. the Black Cyclone, the first black champion in any sport; and Bass Reeves, the most successful lawman in the Old West. Written and illustrated by Joel Christian Gill, the diverse art beautifully captures the spirit of each remarkable individual and opens a window into an important part of American history.
These offbeat stories of heretofore-obscure African-American pioneers are filled with heartbreak and triumph. Without whitewashing the realities of slavery and racism, Strange Fruit has a wry, welcoming tone much aided by Gills dynamic, inventive storytelling. After reading about such real American heroes as chess master Theophilus Thompson, bicycling champion Marshall Major” Taylor, and lawman Bass Reeves, Im eager to learn more!
Josh Neufeld, writer/illustrator of A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge
By the time I finished reading Strange Fruit, I thought, let the comic-book sellers have their mythic superheroes; through Joel Gill, we can have our own. But, instead of flying around in capes or spinning webs, the superheroes in Strange Fruit are extraordinary-ordinary black folks making 'a way out of no way.' The difference: they really lived. Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University
Strange Fruit is an evocative and richly illustrated tour through the shadowed corners of Black History. Gill shares these nine stories simply and with deep thoughtfulness and reverence to voices that-- the reader will quickly be convinced-- need to be heard. Andrew Aydin, author (with Rep. John Lewis) of March: Book One
Still more thoughtful reflections come from Joel Christian Gilland#8217;s graphic novel Strange Fruit: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History, which unpacks its power through drawings and pointed text that chronicle the trials and triumphs of black Americans who struggled against prejudice more than a century ago. At a moment when racial inequities have ignited this nation, Mr. Gill offers direction for the road ahead from the road behind. and#151; The New York Times
These offbeat stories of heretofore-obscure African-American pioneers are filled with heartbreak and triumph. Without whitewashing the realities of slavery and racism, Strange Fruit has a wry, welcoming tone and#151; much aided by Gilland#8217;s dynamic, inventive storytelling. After reading about such real American heroes as chess master Theophilus Thompson, bicycling champion Marshall and#147;Majorand#8221; Taylor, and lawman Bass Reeves, Iand#8217;m eager to learn more!
and#151; Josh Neufeld, writer/illustrator of A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge
By the time I finished reading Strange Fruit, I thought, let the comic-book sellers have their mythic superheroes; through Joel Gill, we can have our own. But, instead of flying around in capes or spinning webs, the superheroes in Strange Fruit are extraordinary-ordinary black folks making 'a way out of no way.' The difference: they really lived. and#151; Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University
Strange Fruit is an evocative and richly illustrated tour through the shadowed corners of Black History. Gill shares these nine stories simply and with deep thoughtfulness and reverence to voices that-- the reader will quickly be convinced-- need to be heard. and#151; Andrew Aydin, author (with Rep. John Lewis) of March: Book One
Strange Fruit is black history as you've never seen it before. Working with a striking palette of ruby reds, rich browns, bleached-out blues and deep piney greens, author/artist Joel Christian Gill conjures up forgotten firsts and impassioned everymen in a cartoon style that's at once cheeky and epic, naive and majestic. and#151; The Chicago Tribune
If you think comics and graphic novels are the domain of and#147;superheroes and stuffand#8221; and and#147;for kids,and#8221; then brace yourself for an epiphany. Yes, youand#8217;ll find some superheroes and kidsand#8217; comics within these pages, but youand#8217;ll also find ordinary people striving for the extraordinary. and#151; Foreword Reviews
The short narratives are conversational in tone and the accompanying detailed images convey tragic beauty. Gill doesnand#8217;t shy away from portraying brutal scenes, but does so without sensationalism. and#151; School Library Journal
Are you always on your child to READ SOMETHING, anything, except a comic book? Well, Strange Fruit is a graphic historic novel, and youand#8217;ll want him to read it. and#151; Terri "The Bookworm Sez" Schlichenmeyer
What Gill has done in this first volume of his collected Strange Fruit mini-comics is pretty remarkable. Heand#8217;s infused each of these stories with a huge amount of information, humor for kid readers (and#147;Slavery stinksand#8221;), humor for adults (when a child is born it appears to be launched out of the mother by jet propulsion, making the umbilical cord not unlike a bungee cord), and a full spectrum of comics storytelling devices. and#151; The A.V. Club
Readers of the short stories in Strange Fruit quickly learn to appreciate the playful succinctness of Gilland#8217;s iconographic language. He knows when to use humor and sight gags to advance the story. (On the experience of enslavement, Henry and#145;Boxand#8217; Brown remarks: and#145;This stinks.and#8217;) But Gill knows when more serious cultural cues are needed too, as in the two-page spread where Brownand#8217;s body, shown curled inside a wooden box, silently tumbles from slavery to freedom. and#151;The Hooded Utilitarian
One of the most interesting heroes in the book is Marshall and#147;Majorand#8221; Taylor (1878and#150;1932), Americaand#8217;s first black champion in any sport and#151; and in cycling, no less, which remains one of the least diverse athletic endeavors even today. Just as the bicycle was beginning to play an important role in the emancipation of women, Taylor, known as The Black Cyclone, attained another feat of equality on two wheels as he bulldozed through the walls put up by racism to break numerous world records and win the world one-mile track cycling championship in 1899. and#151; Maria Popova of the blog, Brain Pickings blog
Superbly penned and illustrated, STRANGE FRUIT: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History, Volume 1 is indubitably a work of love. Earmarked as one-of-a-kind, this graphic novel is not only an additional masterpiece to black history, but also a delightfully educational read for both young and old. and#151; Anita Lock of the blog, 20 Something Reads
From the original black pro basketball star to a magicianand#8217;s greatest illusion, become more familiar with these lives which made a positive difference, despite prejudice. and#151;Katie Mack of the blog, YA Love
Gilland#8217;s book fills a definite void in Americaand#8217;s painfully white history books, but on top of that, itand#8217;s just a really good read. Gill doesnand#8217;t sugarcoatand#151;not everyone gets a happy endingand#151;but the book is visually witty, engaging, and well researched. History truly comes to life under Gilland#8217;s skillful hand. and#151; Foreword Reviews
Astonishing, inspiring, and enraging true stories from American history that you should have been taught in school. and#151; Unshelved
This is a must for all libraries, classrooms and homes. It is the perfect way for all of us to start exploring that shared history we have, in new and different ways. and#151;Nancy Joyce of the blog, What'cha Reading
I was really impressed by this book. Gill clearly did his research to get his point across, and is clearly saying there are more African American people who did cool things that arenand#8217;t being recognized. And heand#8217;s right. and#151; Emily Althea of the blog, Fangirls Are We
Gilland#8217;s graphic novel series is a tool with which to discuss African Americans, social justice and a shared history. and#151; The Philadelphia Tribune
We need stories of excellence and defiance alongside stories of oppression and Gill provides that much needed complexity by helping readers explore how black people excelled despite systematic oppression, thus adding strength to their already remarkable feats. and#151; Teach, Think, Sweat blog
I highly suggest instead that you read Joel Christian Gill's excellent nonfiction collection of hidden Black American history by the same name, published by Fulcrum [...] You'll be much happier, might learn about some new, real-life heroes, and will be supporting actual diversity in comics. It's a win all around, and shows that discerning comics readers are too savvy to fall into self-congratulatory traps. and#151; Panel Patter
Voted a Great Graphic Novel for Teens by the Young Adult Library Services Association.
Chosen as a Summer 2015 Graphic Novel Pick by the Young Adult Library Services Association.
Chosen as a Finalist for the Best Young Adult Graphic Novel by the Cybils Awards (Children's and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards).
Voted a BEA Buzz Book by Shelf Awareness
Featured on HuffPost Live
Chosen by Publishers Weekly for their Notable African-American-Interest Titles of 2014
Chosen by the New York Times as and#147;9 Books That Would Make Great Giftsand#8221;
10 Best Indie Comics / Graphic Novels of 2014 by ForeWord Reviews
Featured on the Black History Month Recommended Reading List from A Room of One's Own Bookstore
Included on the Top 100 Books for Holiday Gift-Giving from The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
A graphic collection of little-known stories of African Americans in United States' history.
Strange Fruit Volume I is a collection of stories from early African American history that represent the oddity of success in the face of great adversity. Each of the nine illustrated chapters chronicles an uncelebrated African American hero or event. From the adventures of lawman Bass Reeves, to Henry "Box" Brown's daring escape from slavery.
About the Author
Joel Christian Gill is the chairman, CEO, president, director of development, majority and minority stock holder, manager, co-manager, regional manager, assistant to the regional manager, receptionist, senior black correspondent, and janitor of Strange Fruit Comics. In his spare time he is the Chair of Foundations at the New Hampshire Institute of Art and member of The Boston Comics Roundtable. He received his MFA from Boston University and a BA from Roanoke College. His secret lair is behind a secret panel in the kitchen of his house (sold separately) in New Boston, New Hampshire where he lives with his wife, four children, talking dog, and two psychic cats.
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research and Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University. A host for PBS, including the recent series The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross” and Black in Latin America”.
Professor Gates is the author of 16 books, the first Black American to earn a Ph.D. from Cambridge, in the first class awarded the MacArthur Foundation genius grants” and the first African American scholar to receive the National Humanities Medal. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of TheRoot.com, a daily online magazine focusing on issues of interest to the African American community and written from an African American prospective.