As an avid reader, copywriter, editor and self-described ‘quirky black chick,’ my library has always consisted of hardcover books or paperback novels as a reflection of my ‘adult-status’ as a reader. But, recently I was re-introduced to one of my childhood passions – reading graphic novels and comic books.
As a child, my dad would take me to our local White Hen Pantry twice a month so I could get the latest issue of Archie comics (my favorite at the time). Once we returned home, my mother would make me a tall glass of milk mixed with chocolate Nestle Quik (now Nesquik), and off to a cozy corner in the house I would go for an afternoon of sipping and reading. There were very few African-American figures featured in comics back then, let alone as a protagonist, so there were no reflections of ‘me’ across those colorful pages. Despite that, reading comic books and later graphic novels fueled my love of reading and writing stories growing up.
Fast-forward to now, that reintroduction to comics came back to me as I read a great graphic novel titled Jennifer’s Journal – The Life of a SubUrban Girl Vol. 1 (Rosarium Publishing) by artist Jennifer Crutè. It’s a personal chronicle of her life growing up as a black girl trying to find her identity and experiencing racism and family issues. It may sound like a sad or serious storyline but Crutè’s storytelling along with her unique drawing style is a hilarious read (but be warned, that the book is NOT recommended for children). In one strip she illustrates how as a child she loved performing puppet shows using her beloved stuffed frog with other cuddly creatures as marionettes. Though instead of the strings being attached to their limbs for movement, she tied them around their necks (not as bad when you see it) and hung them over the stair banister as part of the ‘show’ to the chagrin of her parents. This was much to the chagrin of her parents who silently wished their daughter would take up a quieter creative outlet like drawing. Thankfully she did.
She then shares comic snippets where she captures those moments that just about every black child has experienced, like for instance hearing the N-word blurted out by a bratty white child. Crutè captures the look of shock so perfectly on her child-self character that I could sense exactly the thoughts that must have been going through her mind. Crutè’s characters are drawn with both a sweet innocence mixed with everyday realism. In every scenario she does a great job in showing us the perspective through the eyes of an African-American child.
I do have some critique: I wished the illustrations were in color rather than black & white. Also, there were a few depictions that needed more context, but I was still pulled in and couldn’t stop reading or laughing as I recalled similar memories growing up.
Overall, Jennifer’s Journal brought me back to my childhood of being entertained by reading comics and graphic novels, the only difference is I have characters who are a reflection of me now. All I need is that tall glass of Nestlé Quik, a cozy corner and my comics reading time is complete!
Lori Hill has spent the better part of the past 10 years in marketing, copywriting and editing roles in both mass media and marketing agencies which prompted her to establish her own consultancy http://www.hillmoremarketing.com/. She’s a self-described quirky black chick, proud blerd and loves to live tweet and snark on Lifetime movies. Details and Dedication is her mantra.
You can follow her on Twitter: @lorihillmore