Saturday, March 8, 2014

Abina and The Important Men: A Graphic History

I would not have known about the graphic novel Abina and The Important Men, by Trevor R. Getz and Liz Clarke if it hadn't been for Monica Edinger's excellent Horn Book article entitled "Books About Africa." The article is a must read for all educators of children and I hope the books mentioned in Edinger's article end up on reading lists.

Any young person who is fortunate enough to read Abina will not only enjoy a riveting story full of action and suspense. She will also learn something about the true meaning of social justice and how to understand history.  In the novel which is written for a YA audience, we are told that what stories are recorded in history books are determined by those choosing the stories. For instance:

Only some of the perspectives on the past are ever recorded as documents. Others--the perspectives of the poor, the powerless, the illiterate--are never heard. 


 . . . only some histories are chosen by the powerful to be in the cannon, the list of great books and important topics that are widely read. 

This, of course, explains why the majority of stories by and about black people have never been told.

In Abina and The Important Men we find the story of an African girl in a nineteenth century British colony on the Gold Coast of Africa, a place where slavery is supposed to be against the law as it is in Great Britain. However, Women and Children are still  enslaved on the Gold Coast because they were the most powerless and slavery was lucrative.

Abina is a young enslaved girl. She is forced to work and she is also about to be forced to marry against her will. So Abina flees and seeks The Important Men who she is told might be able to grant her freedom encountering one disappointment after another.

What does it feel like to have no freedom and no voice in a corrupt society? What does one risk to speak out against injustice? Anyone reading this book who has never had their freedom completely taken away will have some idea.

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