Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook, Ko Hyung-Ju, and Ryan Estrada

“But you can learn a lot about history by figuring out what people wanted to hide.”
― Kim Hyun Sook, Banned Book Club

I read Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook and Ryan Estrada and illustrated by Ko Hyung-Ju right before Banned Book Week 2023 began. This week celebrates the freedom to read and the opposition to censorship. Banned Book Club couldn’t have been a more appropriate book to start off this year’s Banned Book Week. To boil it down, this book tells the story of a group of students who form a book club that reads banned books during the reign of South Korea’s Fifth Republic. They put their lives and the lives of their family and friends in danger in order to read censored and banned books, amongst other forms of protest.

In 1983, Kim Hyun Sook was finally able to convince her mother to let her go to college. She was beyond excited to start college, to expand her world, and to study Western Literature. Kim was ready for the break of working in her family’s restaurant. She couldn’t have known that her literature class would send her down a road that she never saw coming; it would be a massive turning point that would alter her life in a way she couldn’t imagine.

Kim’s decision to go to college happened in the midst of the South Korea’s Fifth Republic. This military regime found its way to power through torture, censorship, and the murder of protestors. When Kim started school, she was met with a wall of protestors hurling insults and molotov cocktails. Not interested in getting involved, she throws herself into her books. After meeting the editor of the school newspaper who invites her to join his book club, she is shocked to see that the group is actually an underground book club reading banned and illicit literature that the military regime has forbidden. Unsure of what to do, but wanting to read these books, Kim stays in the club and finds herself drawn into the dangerous activities that the other members are involved in. Soon she will be swept up in a torrent of fear and violence as the people of power close ranks on the protestors.

“Do they ban books because they see danger in their authors, or because they see themselves in their villains?”
― Kim Hyun Sook, Banned Book Club

Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts by Rebecca Hall

“History written by the victors always erases the resistance. And those of us who live in the wake/ruins learn that we’re inferior and needed to be conquered and enslaved. This is the afterlife of slavery that the victors need us to inhabit. One in which we have always already lost and have accepted our fate a handed to us.”
― Rebecca Hall, Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts

Over the last couple months, I have been actively searching for information about hidden histories: the histories of people, places, objects hidden just below the surface that people don’t think about (or know about). These hidden histories can also be the histories of a people that weren’t deemed to be known by the winners of a conflict. During my latest deep dive, I found Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts. Rebecca Hall has, with the help of illustrator Hugo Martínez and lettered by Sarula Bao, written about the lives of enslaved black women warriors. This is a mix between a graphic novel and memoir, as Rebecca acknowledges during her flashbacks that she doesn’t know the full truth, so she has taken some liberties in discussing what actually happened.

During this book, Rebecca is a scholar working on her dissertation to find the truth about the black women warriors involved in slave revolts. Her research takes her across the globe as she works to fill in the holes in their histories. She is the granddaughter of slaves and has forever been haunted by their history and legacy. Wanting to know more about enslaved women, Rebecca heads to archives, courts, businesses, museums, and libraries to dig up their histories. She finds deteriorating correspondence, slave ship captain’s logs, old court records, and forensic reports/evidence that lead her to the truth of these women warriors.

Wake is illustrated gorgeously/hauntingly in black and white, pushing the boundaries of the history of these black women, while showcasing what Rebecca finds in the historical records and then her reconstruction of the past when no records can be found. In addition to the look at the past, Rebecca also shows how her own life is impacted by her research into slavery through her work as an attorney and a historian.

“We reach the final stage of healing from trauma when we integrate the past into who we are. It becomes a part of us that we acknowledge and provides understanding of our world […] Our memories must be longer than our lifetimes.”
― Rebecca Hall, Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts

“When we go back and retrieve our past, our legacy of resistance through impossible odds, our way out of no way, we redress the void of origin that would erase us. We empower and bring joy to our present. This is ancestry in progress, and it is our superpower.”
― Rebecca Hall, Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts

Sugar Falls by David A. Robertson, illustrations by Scott B. Henderson, and colours by Donovan Yaciuk

Elder Betty Ross from Cross Lake First Nation has a story to tell. It may have taken her decades to tell her truth, but with the help of David A. Robertson, she has introduced the world to her resiliency and abuse at Canadian residential schools in the graphic novel, Sugar Falls: A Residential School StoryThe hidden history of the Canadian Residential School System is shocking and needs to be talked about more than it has been in the past.

Betsy Ross was abandoned by her family at a young age. Betsy was eventually rescued and adopted by a loving family. Her world changed a few years later when, at the age of 8, she was taken away to a residential school against both her and her adopted family’s wishes. Her father made her promise to remember the strength of her relationships in order to survive. Those relationships would help light up any dark time she ran up against in the future.

When Betsy arrives at the school, she has no idea what to expect. She undergoes unspeakable abuses and indignities while at the school. She and other students are constantly berated and belittled by the priests and nuns. Her father’s words echo in her brain over and over filling her with hope, strength, determination, and resiliency she needs to survive this ordeal.

Betsy ended up changing her name to Betty in honor and remembrance of her friend, Helen Betty Osborne. Elder Betty Ross wrote this book with the help of David A. Robertson as a way to tell the truth about the residential schools.

 

New Resource: Special Collections Indexes

Welcome to the Special Collections Indexes

The Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center is pleased to announce a new index search website, Special Collections Indexes, which will replace our “Local Database Search”. It features over 35 indexes to historical and genealogical resources held in Special Collections. Users will be able to search across the indexes using Search All Indexes page or search individual indexes depending on the information need.

We encourage you all to explore this new resource for accessing historical and genealogical materials.

Special Collections Indexes was created by the Davenport Public Library’s Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center and Information Technology Department to provide greater access to local historical and genealogical resources by publishing indexes to these materials. Indexes were compiled by the Scott County Iowa Genealogical Society volunteers, library volunteers, and the Special Collections staff. Through this dedicated work, over 35 indexes are available for research use. Resource categories include cemetery records, religious institutions’ records, military records, Scott County records, local newspaper articles, local history publications, additional resources, and Iowa patents and inventors.

Search Tips

General Search Techniques

While searching this site, use spelling variations for names, places, and subjects. List these out before the search and cross them off as each one is searched.

If a specific search is not returning results, try expanding the search by removing search conditions. Search with as little data as possible to return all possible results, including misspelled words, abbreviations, etc.

When searching for a person omit entering a first name to see all possible first name variations in records results.

Search All Indexes

Enter a last name, a first name, a single keyword, and/or year in the appropriate search box. Click on the blue “Search” button at the bottom of the form. The results will displayed in a separate sections organized by its resource categories. Each index is listed separately. If an index has returned results, it will display “Search has __ matches” on the left side of the column. Click on the “Click to view results” button on the right side to view the index’s results. Scroll the entire page to see all resource categories.

Results may be printed using the browsers’ print options.

Search All Indexes does not include the Iowa Patents & Inventors index.

Search Individual Indexes

Use the Search Builder to create your search. Select the “Add Condition” button under Search Builder. Select the “Data” drop down-menu to choose an options to search (“Data” options vary by index). Then select the “Condition” drop-down menu and always select “Contains.” Enter a “Value” term corresponding to the “Data” selected, such as last name, first name, corporate name, year, or keyword. Press Enter on the keyboard to return results.

Example search: “Last Name” was selected for “Data”; “Contains” was selected for “Condition”; “Donahue” was entered for the “Value.”

Search results will be listed in a table of entries pointing to a resource to find more information.

Results may be downloaded as a PDF document or printed by using these icons.

Advanced searches are created by clicking on “Add Condition” button to add additional rows of “Data,” “Condition,” and “Value.”

Flung Out of Space by Grace Ellis and Hannah Templer

This is a story I believe is worth telling. That being said, I want to be clear: The protagonist of this story is not a good person. In fact, Patricia Highsmith was an appalling person. – Grace Ellis, author’s note in the beginning of Flung Out of Space

Flung Out of Space: Inspired by the Indecent Adventures of Patricia Highsmith by Grace Ellis and illustrated by Hannah Templer was a book that had my feelings twisted multiple directions. Patricia Highsmith is problematic. She was a comic book writer and a lesbian during a time when those things were very much frowned upon and seen of as wrong and immoral. Pat’s own feelings towards herself are not positive – she goes through conversion therapy during the book. She is portrayed more as an antihero that readers aren’t sure how they should feel towards. Throughout this book, she is portrayed as bitter, caustic, and lashes out to anyone who gets too close. Pat is deeply flawed. This graphic novel is full of casual sexism, a male-dominated hierarchy, antisemitism, and prejudice against homosexuality. The swirling issues surrounding homosexuality are never really called attention to, but instead are present in Pat’s intense self-loathing of herself amongst other things. Hence my twisty feelings.

This graphic novel begins with Pat working as a writer of low-brow comics. She knows she can do better, but doesn’t do so. She drinks, smokes, and generally goes about life with an immensely surly attitude. As she goes about her day to day, Pat is consumed with thoughts of the novel she should be writing, which will eventually become Strangers on a Train, which will then be adapted into a film by Alfred Hitchcock in 1951.

While she works to write Strangers on a Train, Pat is consumed with self-hatred as she battles the fact that she is a lesbian. She tries conversion therapy, which instead provides her with more women to love and leave. One of those encounters plants the seed of another book in Pat’s head: a story of homosexual love that would give the lesbian protagonists a happy ending – a first! (this would eventually become the book, The Price of Salt).

As I talking about before, this title gave me conflicting emotions. Pat became an unintentional queer icon, but also held incredibly problematic views on multiple topics which made her legacy controversial. It’s a good read, but please read with care.

Good Girls Don’t Make History created by Elizabeth Kiehner and Keith Olwell

In college, I wrote a thesis paper about Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B Anthony, and their quest for women’s suffrage. This is still a topic I am interested in, specifically how authors choose to portray these women in their retellings. My latest find is Good Girls Don’t Make History created by Elizabeth Kiehner and Keith Olwell, written by Elizabeth Kiehner and Kara Coyle, and illustrated/designed by Micaela Dawn and Mary Sanche. This is a graphic novel that covers the history of women’s suffrage from 1840 to the present day. The authors move beyond the well-known female legends and highlight those that may not be widely known.

This graphic nonfiction is told through flashbacks. Each different section starts with a present-day interaction between a few women and then flashes back to a point in history that applies to that modern situation. To begin, modern young women are preparing to vote with a few frustrated at having to wait in line. It flashes back to the start of what it took for women to get the vote. This book goes beyond the normal and focuses on what it took not just for white women to get the vote, but also what Black and indigenous women went through. As the writers note at the beginning of this book, the history of women’s suffrage has been distilled down to a short paragraph in some text books. It’s glossed over, a historical footnote, when in reality, this history is not that far in the past. The fight for the Equal Rights Amendment is discussed with Virginia becoming the 38th state to ratify the ERA in 2020. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about women’s suffrage. This history is full of protests, marches, multiple imprisonments, deaths, and a long fight for equity and equality spanning generations. This book can serve as an easy jumping off point to more research or even more important conversations. History is told from a woman’s point of view here, a necessary journey through time.

We Served the People: My Mother’s Stories by Emei Burell

Documenting family history is incredibly important. If you don’t, your family’s history will disappear and you may never discover what happened or what led you to where you are in life. Emei Burell examines her mother’s past in We Served the People: My Mother’s Stories, a graphic history of life during China’s Cultural Revolution and the impact it had on lives after it ended.

At the beginning of this graphic biography, Burrell notes that this is the story of her mother’s experience and is her mother’s story – her story doesn’t speak for everyone. She was an adolescent at the time, just 14-years old, about to graduate from 7th grade when her life suddenly and drastically changed. First her school was shut down with the teachers forced to stay in the school and not allowed to return home. She and her fellow students still had to come to school, but there was no actual learning taking place. Flash forward to 1968 when Mao ZeDong launched the Down to the Countryside Movement. That meant that all educated youth were forced to go to the countryside to be reeducated by the poorest  lower and middle peasants so they could learn what China really is. They didn’t have a choice not to go, but she avoided leaving until 1969 when she ended up in Yunnan and was stuck there for ten years until the end of the Cultural Revolution. Her mother was officially a rusticated youth in Yunnan.

Throughout this book, Burell pairs her drawings with her mother’s words and photographs from that time. Those photographs add a connection to the story that readers may not have otherwise had with the drawings alone. Her mother’s stories depict how she ended up as one of the few truck-driving women during the Down to the Countryside Movement. Her life growing up in mid-1960s Communist China was rough, yet she managed to survive and thrive while living in a time of massive political upheaval. Determined to get her fair share, she wasn’t afraid to fight for what she wanted. She found ways to work the system, get an education, and eventually leave China like she always planned.

I thoroughly enjoyed this graphic biography. The Cultural Revolution in China was not something I had much knowledge of before I started reading this, but this book has pushed me down a rabbit hole to learn more about this time period and the millions of lives that were lost.

Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: A Graphic History of Women’s Fight for their Rights by Mikki Kendall

Do you want to learn more about women’s rights, but aren’t sure where to start? I recommend Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: a Graphic History of Women’s Fight for their Rights by Mikki Kendall. This graphic history is gorgeously drawn and covers a wide range of topics, years, and issues. I would treat this book as a primer on women’s rights as readers are introduced briefly to hundreds of different women, but since short descriptions are given of each, you’ll undoubtedly want to learn more! I took notes the whole time I was reading of women I wanted to look up. Definite recommendation from me!

As the title states, this graphic history talks about amazons, abolitionists, and activists and their fight for rights. It’s told from the viewpoint of an AI robot teaching a history class in the future. They grow frustrated with the lack of knowledge and transport the class through time all over Earth to learn about the numerous women and their struggle for basic rights. Traveling from antiquity through to the modern era, readers will learn about different key figures and events such as fighting for the right to vote, work, own property, exercise your own bodily autonomy, getting an education, and so much more. What I enjoyed is that the women covered range all races, jobs, and era: the history of amazons, freedom fighters, queens, warrior women, spies, all the way to supreme court justices and activists fighting today. Readers will learn about the many movements that women have fought in, how they overlapped, yet sometimes stayed separate.  Kendall covers suffrage, abolition, civil rights, reproductive rights, LGBTQ liberation, labor, and many other movements. I enjoyed the snippets provided about each woman, movement, and fight. It’s a fascinating look at the past, present, and future of the fight for various different women’s rights.

American Cult edited by Robyn Chapman

What could you give an impromptu speech on with no time to research? This is a question that was debated much among my friends. My answer: cults. Well, anything true crime related, but specifically cults. Imagine my delight when I found American Cult: A Graphic History of Religious Cults in American from the Colonial Era to Today edited by Robyn Chapman sitting on the new graphic novel shelves at the library! I couldn’t wait to give it a read.

American Cult is edited by Robyn Chapman and is compiled by numerous artists who each dedicate a section of the book to a different cult. All in all, 18 different American cults are dissected in this anthonology. The introduction discusses how readers have to take a human approach to the people who were sucked into these movements/cults – We need to treat them with ‘50% empathy and 50% justice’. Some of the chapters are pretty straightforward, while others take a wrap-around approach and really force readers to think about the difference between cults and religion. Each chapter is short – working to avoid the sensational information that was portrayed in the tabloids, but at the same time, the chapters don’t go very deep into the histories. Think of this book as sections of short histories designed to get your appetite wet and to give you enough information to do research on your own! Some of the cults presented may be somewhat controversial regarding whether or not you personally think they are a cult, but it’s a good read.

The content of this book starts in the late 17th-century with mystics that followed Johannes Kelpius in the woods outside of Philadelphia all the way to NXIVM and its leader Keith Raniere in present day. This book definitely focuses more on the more current American cults, but I was surprised to find mention of a couple cults that I had known nothing about. For example, did you know that Louisa May Alcott’s father dragged their whole family into a supposedly utopian sect called the Fruitlands? Also did you know that the Cheesecake Factory chain was founded by a member of Sufism Reoriented, a cult still running in California? There were so many random facts that I learned while I was reading this book that caught me off guard, so much so that I actually took notes! I was definitely left with more questions than answers at the end of this book, but luckily I’m in the right place to answer my questions!

Kent State : Four Dead in Ohio by Derf Backderf

My high school librarian always told me that past history has to be witnessed by those who didn’t live it in order to live on in our memories and to prevent it from happening again. I have taken that to heart in the years since by reading and watching nonfiction about events that happened before I was born.

My latest nonfiction read was Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio by Derf Backderf. This is a graphic nonfiction account of the Kent State shootings that happened on May 4, 1970. On that date, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on unarmed college students protesting the Vietnam War at Kent State University in Ohio. Four students were killed and nine were wounded in a deadly fusillade of 67 bullets.

This story is told from the perspective of the four students who were killed, as well as other students on campus and the writer himself. Ten days prior to the shooting, 10-year-old Derf Backderf was riding in the car with his mother when he saw the same National Guardsman patrolling his nearby hometown, having been brought in by the governor to hopefully squash a trucker strike. Backderf spent years doing interviews and conducting research into the lives of the people affected by the Kent State shootings. What he has created brought me to tears. Reading about their lives before the shooting, how the area was affected afterwards, and the coverup that occured had my emotions running ragged. I found this story to be troubling and concerning, and also incredibly relevant to today as dissent and protesting happens across the world.