My favorite kind of book is one that both moves and challenges me, taking me on a thrill ride of story and character. Mat Johnon’s new graphic novel rides that dangerous edge between heavy issues and heavy-hitting action, with the story of a black man passing for white in the lynching-plagued 1930s South. It pulls it off in the way only a comic can (and a black and white comic at that), and manages to work gender politics, family dynamics, and some darned funny dialogue into a suspenseful mystery. An important (and enjoyable) moment in the history of literary comics.
And then there's the bonus: African American author Carleen Brice is hoping to use this month of gift giving to start a movement to get some classics and new favorites out of the "African American Literature" section and into the hands of non-black readers. And there's no shortage of great books by black authors to recommend, especially in graphic novels. In addition to Johnson's wonderful Incognegro, I'd encourage you to check out Nat Turner by Kyle Baker, a powerful and sometimes disturbing story of the 1831 slave rebellion with text from Turner's own words. It's not included on my favorites of the year list because I read the miniseries in pieces previous to 2008, but it's definitely worth buying and gifting to your favorite white (or black) reader.
I am the co-proprietor of Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. I live in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood with the ALP (Adorably Literate Partner), who reads everything that I don't. Here, I'd like to write some strictly personal thoughts about books I've read.