Best Summer Reads: Mahogany Books Recommends Kindred, a Graphic Novel Interpretation

May 17, 2017
by Derrick A. Young

This is the first in a periodic series of recommendations from some of Maryland’s best indie book shops.

By Derrick A. Young, Co-Founder and President of MahoganyBooks

So anyone who knows me knows I love my sci-fi and comics. I can–and have–stood in comic book shops, to my family’s chagrin, chopping it up for an extended time about a revitalized Luke Cage, the super genius of Moon Girl, the masterpiece that is Ta-Nehisi’s Black Panther, or my pure joy over Sam Wilson (formerly the Falcon) carrying “the people’s Shield” as the new Captain America. What’s even funnier is they know–at each of the three comic shops I frequent–that I am quite partial to African American characters in lead roles or plots that take on issues of importance (i.e. police brutality in the latest Sam Wilson: Captain America story arc).

There have been times that upon my entrance to either of these community gems when one of my buddies from behind the counter with decades plus of comic knowledge has identified either a new first appearance, origin story, or must-have story arc regarding an African or African American character. They understand that although I have love for almost all things Batman, Inhuman, or mad like the titan, Thanos, that it’s important to me that I support Black comic writers, artists, and characters. Otherwise, in my mind, the super-heroes young kids will idolize as they grow up will never look like them or grapple with issues specific to the Black community.

Why is this important? Well, at the end of the day I am a bookseller/business owner that believes that improving our community requires our kids know that:

  1. They MATTER.Young kids–grown kids too if we’re to be real about it–draw from a variety of people and places to assemble their value as a person, thus limiting or expanding what they can accomplish in life. Having your little one seeing a Black super-hero stand up against bullying or work to protect the vulnerable is actually a great lesson. You’ll find numerous talking points for issues they’ll face in school or questions they’ll ask after overhearing an unfortunate news broadcast.
  2. Reading IS enjoyable. Kids don’t want to read for two major reasons: 1) It’s not fun, 2) It takes too long. Graphic novels are just the opposite; they have fun/fantastic art to stimulate the eyes and you don’t have to work too hard to get at the plot or through the book. Of all the books my mother gave me to read as a disinterested teen, there is one that I finished and still cherish to this day: The Death of Superman graphic novel. At the end of that read, I was excited and ready for something else similar to it.

So I say all of that…just to say all of this. Kindred, a classic piece of African American Literature (aka Black Lit), has been adapted into a graphic novel. Admittedly, I am a little late in announcing this, but this type of news can never be celebrated enough. For many, Octavia Butler’s Kindred, is a seminal piece of science fiction writing that will forever sit among their Top 5 to 10 books all-time. It helped to usher many African American readers and writers into the world of both science and paranormal fiction (and as I understand it, yes, there is a difference).

I am by no means a person who could explain the technical aspect of what makes a book a classic; however, I do love books and I love talking to people who love books. And people love talking about how much they LOVE Kindred. So to see it adapted into graphic novel form excites me because now this book has been made even more accessible for people to read and enjoy. Maybe now this becomes the book a Black mom gives to her teenage son that finally sparks his interest in reading. Or perhaps a White mother purchases this book for her son and it opens up the family to authentically discuss race, class, slavery, and its enduring legacy.

The opportunities for either growth through dialogue or just to have an enjoyable evening reading this book are priceless. I encourage everyone to purchase a copy of Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation for themselves or give it as a gift.

About the Author

Derrick A. Young is the Co-Founder and President of MahoganyBooks along with his wife, Ramunda Young. MahoganyBooks is an online bookstore that sells books written for, by, or about people of the African Diaspora. Under Derrick’s leadership as the chief visionary and strategist, MahoganyBooks has become an award-winning bookstore having also executed numerous community give-back events and literary events for noted authors like Congressman John Lewis, Walter Mosley, and Misty Copeland.

Derrick believes keenly that culturally relevant books are essential to equipping children with identity, self-esteem, and innovative thinking. It is why he works tirelessly to promote literacy and partner MahoganyBooks with like-minded businesses and community organizations to increase awareness and access to such books. Derrick is a native of Washington, D.C., a proud alum of Bowie State University, and passionate speaker on the subject of books and identity.

This is a re-blog from the MahoganyBooks website, originally posted on March 6, 2017.

The opinions expressed by guest contributors to the Maryland Humanities blog do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of Maryland Humanities and/or any of its sponsors, partners, or funders. No official endorsement by any of these institutions should be inferred.

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