Romeo and Juliet

Our third and last book club of the Structures of Suffering: Origins of Teen Violence and Suicide took place Thursday, June 1. We read Romeo and Juliet (No Fear Shakespeare Graphic Novels) illustrated by Matt Weigle. We invited Susan Sakamoto from the Group Health Teen Center at Interagency Academy to discuss healthy and unhealthy relationships.

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Our Book Club with Interagency Academy students, teacher Kevin, librarian Kristy, and presenter Susan Sakamoto.

 

Susan started our book club by having us brainstorm the words and phrases that come to mind first when we picture a healthy relationship. Take a look at what we came up with below.

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Next, Susan discussed potential warning signs of unhealthy and abusive relationships. These included:

  • Your partner tells you what you can and can’t wear.
  • Your partner controls who you hang out with.
  • Your partner monitors your social media behavior. They might read your messages or demand to see your phone.
  • Your partner threatens to spread your information or photos of yourself you don’t want anyone to know or see.
  • Your partner does not respect your boundaries.

Susan emphasized that unhealthy and abusive relationships are about power and control. Unhealthy relationships often happen when your partner controls your behavior and isolates you from your support system.

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Some of these signs of unhealthy relationships might be hard to spot, especially at first. Susan shared some great handouts and a Healthy Relationship Quiz that serves as a great starting point for assessing how unhealthy or healthy your relationship might be.

IMG_0142Susan also discussed the difficulties of next steps after recognizing that you or someone you know is in an unhealthy relationship. Below is a list of things to keep in mind if you or someone you know needs support.

  • Talk to a parent, teacher, counselor, or other trusted adult about the situation.
  • Be there to support your friend. Partners exhibiting manipulative or abusive behavior want to distance their partner from their support system.
  • Go to http://www.loveisrespect.org/ to find resources and support.
    • You can chat with a trained advocate at any time online here.
    • Text loveis to 22522* to chat via messaging.
    • There is also a 24-hour phone line you can call 1-866-331-9474.

*All services of loveisrespect.org are free and confidential, but Message & Data Rates apply on text for help services.

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After Susan’s presentation wrapped up, we launched into a discussion about relationships within Romeo and Juliet. Our discussion started with sharing our thoughts and experiences about love at first sight and whether Romeo and Juliet could really be in love after meeting for the first time. We also talked about what might have caused the “ancient grudge” between the Montagues and the Capulets that fuels much of the story’s plot.

We imagined how things might have been different if Romeo or Juliet had felt they could go to their parents about their relationship and at what points throughout the plot a conversation with their parents could have made a life-or-death difference for some of the characters.

We also addressed the dynamics of Romeo and Juliet’s relationship and discussed whether we thought it was healthy or unhealthy. Susan brought up the great point that social norms differ greatly today than when the original play was written. What might be considered unhealthy today might have been considered normal then because of societal differences regarding gender, power, and violence.

 

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It’s Kind of a Funny Story

We held our second book club of the Structures of Suffering: Origins of Teen Violence and Suicide for It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini on Thursday, May 4th. We invited Eric Wirkman from Teen Link to provide a Youth Suicide Prevention Presentation (YSPP).

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It’s Kind of A Funny Story Book Club with guest presenter, Eric from Teen Link on the right, (me) librarian Kristy Gale next to him, and teacher Kevin in the middle!

Eric brainstormed with us the warning signs to look for that someone we know might be contemplating suicide. Check out our list below.

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He also reviewed with us how to help a friend if we’re concerned about them. Namely:

  1. Showing we care.
    • This could take the form of “I statements” and look like this: “I noticed you doing this, and I’m concerned/worried etc. Instead of placing blame and making accusations, such as “You’re so different now. What’s wrong with you? Why are you doing this?”
    • Listen!
    • This also includes empathizing while not minimizing. Don’t say “It’s not a big deal. OR Everything will be okay.”
  2. Ask the question directly:
    • “Are you thinking about suicide?” This questions contains no judgement, it’s a yes or no question, and there’s no confusion as to what’s being asked. It’s a difficult question to pose, but an important one.
  3. Talk to a trusted adult.IMG_9219

Finally, Eric passed out Teen Link brochures and shared with us these important resources:

Teen Link Help Line
Call for assistance in figuring out what to do or just to have someone to talk to. Confidential and anonymous. Available every evening from 6 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Toll Free: 1-866-TEENLINK (833-6546) 

24-Hour Crisis Line
Call for immediate assistance or someone to talk to in case of an emergency. Confidential and anonymous. Chat also available during select days/times.
Toll Free: 1-866-4CRISIS (427-4747)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (24 hours)
Call for assistance or someone to talk to in case of emergency. Chat also available during select days/times.
Toll Free: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

The Trevor Project (24 hours)
Call for assistance or someone to talk to in case of emergency. Focus on LGBTQ individuals. Chat and text available during select days/times.
Toll Free: 1-800-4UTREVOR (488-7386)

We also had a short but rich discussion. We talked about the warning signs that both Craig from It’s Kind of a Funny Story and Hannah from Thirteen Reasons Why displayed. Many of the students had seen the show, 13 Reasons, so they were able to talk about how her friends, classmates, teachers, counselor, and parents failed her. We also talked a lot about Craig’s obsessive perfectionism to the detriment of nearly everything else important in his life an how that had a negative impact.

We talked about the tentacles and anchors that Craig experiences and some of us shared the tentacles and anchors that we have in our own lives.

We discussed how mental illness is a real and serious disease just like diabetes or heart disease, and even though it’s something that one will always have, it can be managed. It’s a journey of trial and error – at times medication, therapy, and other supports are necessary.

Have you read the book? What did you think?

 

 

 

 

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Free Audiobook Downloads!

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Do you love to listen to audiobooks?
Do you like FREE books?

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SYNC is a free summer audiobook program for teens 13+ and readers of any age. The 2017 season is April 27th – August 5th 2017.

SYNC will give away 30 titles – two paired audiobook downloads a week! Download them (to keep forever) before they expire each week!

Text syncYA to 25827 to receive text alerts.

2017 SYNC Audiobook Title Pairs

April 27 – May 3
May 4  – May 10
2017 titles 1
May 11 – May 17
May 18 – May 24
May 25 – May 31
2017 titles 3
June 1 – June 7
June 8 – June 14
June 15 – June 21
June 22 – June 28
June 29  – July 5
July 6 – July 12
July 13 – July 19
July 20 – July 26
July 27 – August 2
August 3  – August 9
August 10 – August 16
2017 titles 2
Download Details
  • Downloads are in MP3 format and are Mac and Windows compatible.
  • Downloads will operate through the OverDrive app.
  • Most listening devices are supported.
  • Each SYNC audiobook is available for download for a period of 7 days (only).
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An Intense and Important Discussion

The first book in the Great Stories Club grant, Structures of Suffering: Origins of Teen Violence and Suicide, was Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

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Interagency Academy Book Club featuring student participants (some who didn’t want to show their face), Rachel Taylor from KCSARC and English teacher Kevin Geloff.

Because the book deals with the heavy yet relevant

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A Post-it from our ice-breaker

themes of teen suicide and sexual violence, I thought we’d begin with an ice-breaker that centered around why we all matter inspired by the author’s Twitter campaign, #ReasonsWhyYou Matter. We all used the prompt, “I/you/we matter because…” and wrote down a sentence on a Post-it note and put inside a bag. We then all grabbed a Post-it from the bag, introduced ourselves, and read the phrase that we drew. It was a way for all of us to be vulnerable without being too vulnerable.

 

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Booklist review:  “When Clay Jenson plays the cassette tapes he received in a mysterious package, he’s surprised to hear the voice of dead classmate Hannah Baker. He’s one of 13 people who receive Hannah’s story, which details the circumstances that led to her suicide. Clay spends the rest of the day and long into the night listening to Hannah’s voice and going to the locations she wants him to visit. The text alternates, sometimes quickly, between Hannah’s voice (italicized) and Clay’s thoughts as he listens to her words, which illuminate betrayals and secrets that demonstrate the consequences of even small actions. Hannah, herself, is not free from guilt, her own inaction having played a part in an accidental auto death and a rape. The message about how we treat one another, although sometimes heavy, makes for compelling reading.”

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Rape Culture

“In this novel by Jay Asher, the voice of the deceased teenager Hannah tells her own story in a series of cassette tapes that describe her snowballing experiences of gender-based humiliation, bullying, and violence at her new high school. Her hopes to fit in, safely explore romantic and sexual feelings, and maintain her dignity quickly become crushed as classmates and strangers alike map their social and sexual desires onto her body. She addresses thirteen people who contributed to her suffering, and their trespasses range from peer “locker room talk” about her appearance and sex life to violations of her privacy to outright sexual assault. Buffeted by the paradoxical standards that young women are held to — to be both alluring and chaste; both independent and compliant — Hannah gradually loses confidence in herself and others until she feels completely isolated and decides to turn her loathing onto herself. Listening to her story and retracing her steps, Hannah’s classmate and crush Clay seeks to unlock the mystery of Hannah’s suicide. But instead of a single answer he finds a complex web of structural inequalities and everyday cruelties embedded in seemingly normal behavior, and is left to ponder how to live ethically and compassionately towards others in the face of these norms.”

According rapecultureto the Oxford Dictionary, rape culture is defined as “A society or environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and abuse.”

We decided to explore the prevailing theme of rape culture within Thirteen Reasons Why and our very own society by inviting sexual assault prevention specialist, Rachel Taylor to read the book, present, and contribute to our discussion. Rachel works for the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (KCSARC). IMG_7697Rachel started off the discussion by talking about power structures and asked a student to visually convey what power looks like to them through a drawing. Students then took turns contributing their thoughts as to the different types of people that hold power and what power can look like within relationships. This brought us to talk about how age of consent and consent in general. Rachel passed out KSCARC’s “Age of Consent” cards that included important information such as,”Just because your relationship is legal, doesn’t mean it’s equal.” AND “Consent is not just a lack of no. You need a YES! Here’s a portion of the card:13 consesnt
Rachel reviewed other resources including a handout on Washington sexual assault laws and how to support a friend who has experienced sexual assault. BTW, the KCSARC Resource Line is 1-888-99-VOICE (86423).

Our discussion also covered victim blaming, slut-shaming, the Madonna-Whore Complex, gender based violence, and more.

We delved into the snowball effect that Hannah talks so much about and how rumors and gossip about her quickly lead to a negative reputation, betrayal by her classmates, sexual assault, and dangerously low self-esteem. We also discussed the fact that Clay deserved to be on the tapes for two main reasons:

  1. He worried that the rumors were true and that Hannah was too experienced for her. Therefore, he didn’t reach out to her even though there were obvious signs that she needed support.
  2. Even if the rumors were true, so what? What if she was more sexually experienced? Why should she be treated any differently and as less than?

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Ultimately, we had a powerful discussion and could have used more time. We also talked about how excited we are for the Netflix adaptation of 13 Reasons Why set to be released in just a few days on March 31st, 2017.
Check out the trailer!

***Considering suicide? There are people you
can talk to and who can help you.***

National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Whether you are personally in crisis or you are concerned about someone who is, you can ALWAYS call 1-800-273-TALK and get a listening ear, resources, and support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Trevor Project – 1-866-4-U-TREVOR
This is also a free, confidential 24-hour hotline. It focuses on crises and suicide prevention among gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth.

Crisis Text Line: Text START to 741-741 to talk to a trained counselor. It’s free, confidential, and available 24/7.

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Structures of Suffering: Origins of Teen Violence and Suicide

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The University Branch of the Seattle Public Library in partnership with Interagency Academy’s UDYC site has been awarded a third grant from the Great Stories Club!

The teen services librarians at the downtown Central Library library have also been awarded the grant.

The theme of this series is Structures of Suffering: Origins of Teen Violence. We’ll be have a guest from a local agency presenting at each book club. Read on to learn more about the theme and the three books we’ll be discussing.

“The sexualized cyberbullying of teen girls, gun violence among young gang members, LGBTQ suicides, young people’s shrinking job prospects: recent conversations about topics like these have reignited longstanding concerns about the state of teenagers today and the standards to which society holds them. The three books in this series follow the stories of individual youth to explore some of the underlying systems, norms, and emotions that can lead to teens hurting themselves and others. Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2006) and Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why (2007) each offer nuanced takes on anxiety, social isolation, and suicidal thoughts in contemporary America, while William Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet (1597; reimagined in graphic novel form in 2008) demonstrates how long people have been concerned about teen violence and suicide. In each case, the protagonists’ feelings and choices are shaped by the actions of others in their social circles and other factors outside their control. Using humor, introspection, and drama, these works ask: How is it that communities and interpersonal relationships are both essential to human self-knowledge, happiness, and ability to function, and can also cause such anxiety, danger, and even self-harm?”

“School shootings, bullying, teen suicide — it seems like you can’t turn on the TV or scroll through your Facebook feed without hearing about some form of teen violence. What’s the cause? It’s true that we all experience challenges like peer pressure, unrequited love and academic stress, but for some young people, these day-to-day anxieties are deepened by feelings of depression, insecurity or self-loathing, feelings that can increase isolation and lead to violence or suicide. Join the Great Stories Club to read and discuss the following three books about characters who are dealing with teen violence and suicide.”

13 book cover“Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker — his classmate and crush — who committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list. Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.”

Funny_Story_frontIt’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini Like many ambitious New York City teenagers, Craig Gilner sees entry into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School as the ticket to his future. Determined to succeed at life — which means getting into the right high school to get into the right college to get the right job — Craig studies night and day to ace the entrance exam, and does. That’s when things start to get crazy. At his new school, Craig realizes that he isn’t brilliant compared to the other kids; he’s just average, and maybe not even that. He soon sees his once-perfect future crumbling away. The stress becomes unbearable, and Craig stops eating and sleeping — until, one night, he nearly kills himself. Craig’s suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, isolated from the crushing pressures of school and friends, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety. Ned Vizzini, who himself spent time in a psychiatric hospital, has created a remarkably moving tale about the sometimes unexpected road to happiness. For a novel about depression, it’s definitely a funny story.”

romeo“Romeo and Juliet (No Fear Shakespeare Graphic Novels) illustrated by Matt Weigle You may know the basics of Romeo and Juliet, but No Fear Shakespeare Graphic Novels brings the story to life in a new way. These dynamic visual adaptations are impossible to put down. Each of the titles is illustrated in its own unique style, but all are distinctively offbeat, slightly funky, and appealing to teen readers. The book features an illustrated cast of characters, a helpful plot summary, line-by-line translations of the original play, and illustrations that show the reader exactly what’s happening in each scene.”

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Feed: A Great Stories Club Discussion

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“Identity crises, consumerism, and star-crossed teenage love in a futuristic society where people connect to the Internet via feeds implanted in their brains.

For Titus and his friends, it started out like any ordinary trip to the moon – a chance to party during spring break and play with some stupid low-grav at the Ricochet Lounge. But that was before the crazy hacker caused all their feeds to malfunction, sending them to the hospital to lie around with nothing inside their heads for days. And it was before Titus met Violet, a beautiful, brainy teenage girl who has decided to fight the feed and its omnipresent ability to categorize human thoughts and desires. Following in the footsteps of George Orwell, Anthony Burgess, and Kurt Vonnegut Jr., M. T. Anderson has created a not-so-brave new world — and a smart, savage satire that has captivated readers with its view of an imagined future that veers unnervingly close to the here and now.”

Our last book discussion for the Great Stories Book Club: “Hack the Feed: Media, Resistance, Revolution” GSC theme was Feed by M.T. Anderson. This was probably one of the deepest discussions we’ve had all year, and it felt good to end on such a positive note.

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Some of the members from our last meeting. Teacher, Kevin far left and me, Kristy on the far right.

We talked about the power corporations have over us through marketing. Students explored the kind of influence they believe that advertising has on them and strategies they use to fight it. The students debated whether or not they would have the feed implanted if they lived in a future society where the feed was the norm and was expected.

We ended book club by watching homemade trailers of Feed that were posted on YouTube, and we discussed how accurate they portrayed the book.

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Activism & The Hunger Games

On Thursday, April 21st, I met with the students of Interagency Academy Alternative High School (at UDYC) for our second official Great Stories Club meeting (in March we discussed X: A Novel, but it wasn’t an official GSC title). We read and discussed Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins which was one of the titles chosen in the “Hack the Feed: Media, Resistance, Revolution” GSC theme.

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Angie Malorni who is a self-described ” community organizer and never-ending student of social justice.” was our guest presenter. She started off the discussion with a quote from Angela Davis:

“But it has been absolutely inspiring to watchangela davis1 the development of young activists. And I have to catch myself when I say the, you know, “youth movements” and “black youth movements.” I have to catch myself and recognize that these are the movements of our time. They’re not youth movements per se, because youth have always led radical movements. But it’s very exciting to live during this era. And as I’ve pointed out many times, I think it must be extremely exciting to be young now. But it’s also exciting for those of us who are older to see this promise that has emerged in such powerful ways for the first time since perhaps the ’60s and the ’70s.”

It was a great way to get students thinking and talking about how they themselves are the ones starting and maintaining social justice movements. Angie also introduced them to local young adult activist groups that students could join, some even have a stipend attached. A few of the students planned to look into these opportunities.

The groups included:
* Youth Undoing Institutional Racism (YUIR)
* Tyree Scott Freedom School
* Ending the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC)
* King County Youth Advisory Council
* Got Green
* REPSEA (Racial Equity Project Seattle)

For our book discussion, we tried to build on the content of March and X, as the themes of activism, resistance, and revolution tied all three of the books together. Angie led us in a thought-provoking conversation around the  intersections of oppression. I hope our discussion inspired the students to think about race and social justice activism and the impact that they could have and may already be having.

We also covered symbols of activism and resistance with the Hunger Games such as the 3-fingers salute. Katniss describes the 3-finger salute as “an old and rarely used gesture of our district, occasionally seen at funerals. It means thanks, it means admiration, it means good-bye to someone you love” (The Hunger Games, Book 1, pg. 24). At the reaping, Katniss volunteers to take Prim’s place in the games, and the crowd refuses to clap. They show Katniss the 3-finger salute instead.

We talked about how after Rue’s death, Katniss covered her body in flowers to show respect and that she was “not just a pawn in their games.”  I then showed the students the clip from the film where Katniss gave the 3-finger salute to the cameras, and the people of District 11 return the salute which sparked the uprising of District 11.

katniss hunger-games-district12-salute

 

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We read X: A Novel


In March, we read and discussed X: A Novel by by Ilyasah Shabazz & Kekla Magoon. Although this wasn’t a Great Stories Club selection, we decided to that it was fitting addition to the theme: “Hack the Feed: Media, Resistance, Revolution.”

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X: A Novel details Malcolm X’s childhood and young adult years – who Malcolm X was before he was X.

We started the discussion off by providing some historical context for the time period of Malcolm X’s Life: 1925 – 1965. We talked about what life was like for black folks living in different parts of the country during the Jim Crow era into the Civil Rights Movement.

We debunked the common argument: “slavery was so long ago, get over yourself…” by talking about this graph and what it means for the African American experience.

slavery timeline

In the book, there’s a scene where Malcolm is on a date at a night club and was deeply affected by Billie Holiday’s powerful and moving song, “Strange Fruit.” We discussed the significance of the lyrics to the story and how and why they had such an impact on Malcolm.

I adapted a PowerPoint by the York Region District Schools (Ontario, Canada) to aid with our discussion of Malcolm X’s life.  The Life of Malcolm X – A PowerPoint Presentation

Students responded to their reading through art. Here are a couple of the their responses.

X tree hanging

malcom by an

We had a thought provoking discussion which reminded me of a previous book club discussion from a few months back when we read another book by Kekla Magoon, How it Went Down.

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Free eBooks and Downloadable Audio Books are Back!

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Do you love to listen to audiobooks?
Do you like FREE books?

SYNC is a free summer audiobook program for teens 13+ and readers of any age. The 2016 season is May 5th – August 17th 2016. SYNC will give
away 30 titles – two paired audiobook downloads a week!

Text syncya to 25827 to receive text alerts about all the featured titles

sync-poster-dates-2016-finalDownload Details

  • Downloads are in MP3 format and are Mac and Windows compatible.
  • Downloads will operate through the OverDrive app.
  • Most listening devices are supported.
  • Each SYNC audiobook is available for download for a period of 7 days (only).
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March: Book One – Comic Analysis

Local comic book artist Greg Stump, visited with our book club in January to discuss the graphic novel, March: Book One by Congressman John Lewis and Andrew Aydin along with illustrator  Nate Powell. For more information on that book club meeting, check out this post.

Part of his presentation included analyzing the various illustrative techniques and how they were used to enrich the story, allowing readers to make powerful inferences based on visual cues. Stump’s commentary is included underneath each page from the book.

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This is the opening page of the book and a good example of using a large scene/panel that dominates the page as a way of emphasizing the place/setting (in this case the bridge where the police confronted/attacked the activists). It’s always a sound strategy to emphasize the setting at the start of a story, and in this case it makes even more sense to do so because the detail imbued in the drawing makes it more vivid — it puts us there so we can feel more viscerally the significance of the moment. The fact that the first panel is borderless and “bleeds” towards the edges of the page adds to its standing apart from the panels that follow.

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Lots of horizontal panels on this page also give a sense of place … e.g. the countryside, and its vast wide horizons, are complemented by the panels and their structure. the swooping diagonal lines help keep this layout from feeling static, since it’s a scene with some urgency (the bus is coming fast and Lewis needs to rush to catch it).

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Here’s another example of form mirroring content, though in this case the orientation is vertical rather than horizontal. Similar to the first page, this city scene employs bleeds (here all the way off the page), as well as an unusual slanted perspective, to make it stand out from what has come before it, and to put us in the perspective of Lewis’ eyes … we see the startling bigness of the buildings just as he does partly because this scene is more immense than the scenes in the book that have preceded it.

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There’s a visual rhythm here to the three panels arranged in a vertical sequence that seems to echo MLK’s speech patterns. Repetition of elements (the hand and forearm), structure (all panels are the same shape and size) and composition (the hand is in the same spot three times) makes the content/point striking and more emphatic, and that is amplified by the repetition of the four word phrases (“the evil of racism, the evil of poverty, the evil of war”).

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This sequence, featuring the role-playing the activists do to prepare themselves for the abuse they’ll face in the course of their protests, is striking for the all-black background that surrounds the entire page, probably to emphasize and reinforce that they are exploring the “dark side” of humanity in taking on these roles.

 

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