Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that should absolutely be put at the top of your TBR pile. Recommended books will vary across genre and age category and include shiny new books, older books you may have missed, and some classics I suggest finally getting around to. Make space for another pile of books on your floor because here we go!

Today’s pick is a nonfiction graphic novel about an often misunderstood and underappreciated bit of history.

Book cover of The Black Panther Party: A Graphic Novel History by David F. Walker and Marcus Kwame Anderson

The Black Panther Party: A Graphic Novel History by David F. Walker and Marcus Kwame Anderson

There are a number of books on the Black Panther Party and on (and by) its members. It can be hard to know where to start because the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was incredibly complicated. This book organizes the information with neither overly glorifying nor sugarcoating the complexity and I think it’s a good entry-point.

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (later shortened to the Black Panther Party) was a radical political organization that was founded here where I am, in Oakland, CA. Many people associate the Black Panther Party with violence and while that is not completely unfair, it is definitely not the whole picture. I think that’s one of the things that I really love about this book. It gives you the tough stuff right alongside the wonderful, truly transformative stuff that the Black Panthers did.

It is very notable that the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense rose as a response to and in contrast to the non-violent civil rights movement. Congressman John Lewis’ and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s non-violence stance did not mean there wasn’t violence. The activists practiced nonviolence but their opposition, the police and others who upheld white supremacy, were still incredibly violent. This context is what gave birth to the Black Panthers: that Black people have the right to protect ourselves and our community from brutality. This graphic history has the text of the original Ten Point Program, of what the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense wanted and believed. I’ll be honest: reading that was really hard because it’s stuff we’re still fighting for decades later.

This book teaches about so many radical things the Black Panthers accomplished, like the free breakfast program, community clinics, and schools. We learn about many of the key members and how the Black Panthers inspired other such groups around the nation as well as satellites of the Black Panthers themselves. Readers also learn the many ways in which the party was taken down, both externally and internally, much at the hands of the FBI.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the artwork, which is perfection. There are so many people mentioned that I could not fully keep track of all the moving parts without the artwork. It helped the story feel more real, especially when at least in my life it always felt a bit like legend.

Content warnings for violence, police violence, racism in particular anti-Blackness, and substance use.

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That’s it for now, book-lovers!


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