“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies…but the silence of our friends.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Those words give me the chills every time. Mark Long, Jim Demonakos and Nate Powell team up to create a moving and realistic graphic novel based on those very words, titled The Silence of Our Friends. In the setting of a small Texas town during the civil rights era, readers will be introduced to two families, one white and one black. When covering a protest at the local college campus, Jack Long, a white television reporter, meets Larry Thompson, a black professor and activist. A friendship begins out of like-mindedness and understanding of how a person should be treated, regardless of their culture or race. Though Thompson is wary of Mr. Long’s intentions, he lets him into his confidence and they agree to have their families meet for dinner in the spirit of solidarity and friendship. That friendship almost comes to an end when the two men find themselves on opposite sides in a court case where five students are unfairly accused of manslaughter. Jack witnessed that the death of the police officer in the case was actually a result of ricocheting shots from other officers, and he looks for an opportunity to tell what he knows, though Thompson doubts his intentions and his boss pressures him (at the cost of his job) to leave it alone.
Based on the authors own father and experience growing up, this graphic novel paints an intimate and telling portrait of the human experience in the ‘60s by focusing on relationships and family dynamics. The story show regular conversations that were had at home, depicting what it must have felt like for the people involved, highlighting the risks they took on a daily basis just to live according to what they believed and knew was right. Reading this graphic novel was like watching history in action. The characters seem like people you know, and their responses seem as relatable as if it could have been you. The Silence of Our Friends de-abstracts the history of civil rights and makes it as present as the friendships you have now. The unfair inequality sustained in the United States was not just an issue for black people, but for every citizen. This book highlights this notion, showing that in situations of injustice, it is by friendship we must stand to overcome insidious actions.
Review by Gigi, CLP-Brookline