Mendoza the Jew: Boxing, Manliness, and Nationalism; A Graphic History

Schechter, Ronald (text) & (illus.). Oxford Univ. 2013. 240p. ISBN 9780199334094. pap. $19.95. BIOG
England's heavyweight champion in the 1790s, Daniel Mendoza has a walk-on in Will Eisner's Fagin the Jew (2003). "[Mendoza] has invented a scientific boxing!" crows Fagin's papa. Indeed, Mendoza scooped Muhammad Ali's "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" by introducing defensive moves and complex footwork to boxing two centuries before Ali. Schechter views Mendoza's life through the multiple lenses of celebrity sports culture, nationalism, gender, and minority issues. The five-part lesson in historical methodology includes the graphic biography itself, selections from primary sources, discussion of the historical context and how the graphic novel was made, and suggestions for writing projects so readers may try "what historians do" themselves.
VERDICT A stellar example of how graphic novels can provide a window on a whole world of history and scholarship, Mendoza is also an entertaining and eye-catching read. The solidly researched work of Schechter (Obstinate Hebrews: Representations of Jews in France, 1715–1815) is paired with dramatic and lyrical watercolors from Clarke (Abina and the Important Men). Apparently designed with college undergraduates in mind, the title also works well for high schoolers and casual readers.
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