*dusts off blog*
tap tap tap… is this thing on?
Well, hello there! Fancy meeting you around these parts. I am back with a book review! Expect lots more of those as I’m now Blogging for Books for Crown Publishing, a Penguin Random House imprint. So, check it out below. Leave a comment. And if The Harlem Hellfighters is your thing, go grab a copy, from a book store preferably, not that online place that shall not be named…
“I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.”
This is not a book about war. At least not The Great War. What The Harlem Hetlfighters is is a story about the continuing fight for true democracy for all men. Before the men of the 15th New York National Guard Regiment, including James Reese Europe, Eugene Jaques Bullard, and Henry Johnson, were recruited by the French to fight in the trenches, they had to fight for equality within the ranks of their own countrymen. It’s a tale familiar to many – the Tuskegee Airmen come to mind. Inferior weapons and uniforms. Constant threat of violence whereever they went. Menial jobs rather than actual combat. It was their German foes who would brand them Harlem Hellfignters, due to their courage in battle; they never lost a trench. They would return as heroes of the 369th Infantry Regiment, complete with a celebratory parade initially denied to them because of their race.
However, the narrative felt disjointed at times, flashing back and forth between the happenings on the front and the lives of discrimination and oppression left behind. You feel each character’s frustration and determination to prove his worth, and the futility in the effort. A particular scene that stood out involves one character’s job in a theater showing the infamous Birth Of A Nation. It’s an effective turning point for him and the novel.
Where HH is weak is in the illustrations and overall packaging of the novel. White’s stark and graphic pictures get muddied because of too small images. Much of the detail is lost and I can’t help but think a few pops of color might have helped. Throughout the novel, I had trouble distinguishing between the major characters. A story this important to our nation’s history deserved better.
Harlem Hellfighters gets 4 out of 5 stars for telling the story of these unsung heroes. Using the graphic novel as a medium will also appeal to teens who otherwise would never pickup a history book.
To learn more about the book and the author, click these useful links: