The Talk

Holt. Jun. 2023. 352p. ISBN 9781250805140. $29.99. MEMOIR
Pulitzer Prize–winning Bell, who creates political cartoons and the comic strips “Candorville” and “Rudy Park,” writes an incredibly moving graphic memoir, full of vignettes from his life that offer a critique of the prejudice he’s experienced. As a young child, he couldn’t believe it when his mom tried to explain to him that he would be treated differently as a Black boy and why she wouldn’t buy him a realistic-looking water gun—until a cop screamed at him to drop his weapon, a plastic green water gun. This situation heartbreakingly comes full circle when Bell has to give his young son the same talk after the murder of George Floyd. Personal stories, from being teased about his big lips to being followed in stores by security and being pulled over while driving, are interspersed with memorable historic and cultural moments and even some occasional humor and Star Wars references. All are evocatively drawn in mostly two-tone shades, with effective, occasional flashes of additional color—some absolutely stunning, like when a cop’s face morphs into the dog that terrifies Bell.
VERDICT Bell’s powerful story of his life and commentary on racism are made even more impactful by his poignant illustrations.
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