There is something about the visual aspect of books, whether they be graphic novels, photography books, or cinematically written stories that are so vivid and clear that every word creates images of the movement, nature, and intrapersonal exchanges of each character in our minds. Books are powerful tools for the imagination, along with advancing our education about Black leaders and heroes, artists, creators and thinkers, and courageous survivors.  

It was exciting to see the emergence of the new “Angela Davis: A Graphic Biography”; photographer Jamel Shabazz’s new book, “Albums”; and a would-be classic novella by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes entitled “The Deep.” 

Each book is a reminder of the different ways Black stories are being told. It is both exciting and comforting to know that we are not just a wordy, historical monolith of thought, suffering, and pain, although Davis, Shabazz, and very possibly the authors of “The Deep” have surely gone through nearly insurmountable challenges to be who they are. Their stories are more than enough for us to learn how to rise above the darkness of life and the discrimination of our American and colonialized culture. 

“Ms Davis: A Graphic Biography” by Amazing Améziane, Sybille Titeux de la Croix  (Fantagraphics)

Prison abolitionist, professor, and American icon, Angela Davis’s incredible story is illustrated in a new graphic biography. Her life and work, which placed her on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List for her connection with the Black Communist Party, along with her journey to Cuba, revealed to the world her story of rightful redemption via the solidaristic protection of her Black community (who founded the Black People in Defense of Angela Davis and demanded her freedom from incarceration and martyrdom). She attained her freedom in the early 1970s, and since then, her graceful, yet adamant fight against mass incarceration and for Black feminist issues has created a deep foundation for the Black American culture and beyond to grow and organize to protect Black people well into post-modern times, including this very moment in 2023.

“The graphic biography also includes illustrated educational supplementary material that adds historical context about the various political organizations and programs referred to in the book, such as COINTELPRO, an illegal FBI program dedicated to destroying U.S. political groups it deemed ’subversive,’” said the book’s publisher, Fantagraphics.

“Jamel Shabazz: Albums by Jamel Shabazz” (Gerhard Steidl Druckerei und Verlag) 

The trailblazing photographer and influential, profoundly talented Jamel Shabazz has returned with a new book of photographs after having published the 2020 photography book, “City Metro,” which was described as an “ode to New York’s subway” by the British Journal of Photography because it highlights images of young people riding the NYC subway during the1980s through 2018. 

“Jamel Shabazz: Albums” is a fresh, crisply crafted collection of pictures that tell the intimate story of the Shabazz family from the 1970s–1990s. “This book,” wrote publisher Gerhard Steidl Druckerei und Verlag, “[was] awarded the Gordon Parks Foundation/Steidl Book Prize [and] presents, for the first time, Shabazz’s work from the 1970s to ’90s as it exists in his archive: small prints thematically grouped and sequenced in traditional family photo albums that function as portable portfolios.”

“The Deep” by Rivers Solomon with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes (Saga/Gallery Press‎)

“The Deep”’s interesting backstory and entrancing theme deserve to be covered and shared for years to come. It was commissioned after the 2017 airing of an episode of radio’s “This American Life” that explored Afrofuturism; its esthetic and possibilities as an art form; and the musical expression of the concept of a mythical underwater world inhabited by beings born from Black mothers and thrown into the ocean from slave ships, written and recorded by the hip-hop group Clipping. The idea of senior editor Navah Wolfe at Saga Books to expand the story through literature brought this book to life. 

Speculative fiction author Rivers Solomon did an incredible job of crafting an Afrofuturistic oceanic community of slave descendants who adapted their bodies to survive the depths of the water to live, thrive, survive, and remember. “Yetu holds the memories for her people—water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners—who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one—the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu,” said Simon and Schuster. 

Solomon was the perfect author to write the book because their interests as a speculative, futuristic author were already steeped in issues related to ecology, slavery, and memory. However, it should be understood that no research or description can satisfy a reader more than experiencing the powerful vision, intelligence, and empathy of the Black body and psyche than reading this book for yourselves. “The Deep” also won the Lambda Literary Award in 2020.

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