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Lit Up

A bestselling author and distinguished critic goes back to high school to find out whether books can shape lives

It’s no secret that millions of American teenagers, caught up in social media, television, movies, and games, don’t read seriously-they associate sustained reading with duty or work, not with pleasure. This indifference has become a grievous loss to our standing as a great nation–and a personal loss, too, for millions of teenagers who may turn into adults with limited understanding of themselves and the world.

Can teenagers be turned on to serious reading? What kind of teachers can do it, and what books? To find out, Denby sat in on a tenth-grade English class in a demanding New York public school for an entire academic year, and made frequent visits to a troubled inner-city public school in New Haven and to a respected public school in Westchester county. He read all the stories, poems, plays, and novels that the kids were reading, and creates an impassioned portrait of charismatic teachers at work, classroom dramas large and small, and fresh and inspiring encounters with the books themselves, including The Scarlet Letter, Brave New World, 1984, Slaughterhouse-Five, Notes From Underground, Long Way Gone and many more. Lit Up is a dramatic narrative that traces awkward and baffled beginnings but also exciting breakthroughs and the emergence of pleasure in reading. In a sea of bad news about education and the fate of the book, Denby reaffirms the power of great teachers and the importance and inspiration of great books.

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Faster Than a Speeding Bullet

Graphic novels have exploded off bookstore shelves into movies, college courses, and the New York Times book review, and comics historian and children’s literature specialist Stephen Weiner explains the phenomenon in this groundbreaking book—the first history of graphic novels. From the agonizing Holocaust vision of Art Spiegelman’s Maus to the teenage angst of Dan Clowes’s Ghost World, this study enters the heart of the graphic novel revolution. The complete history of this popular format is explained, from the first modern, urban autobiographical graphic novel, Will Eisner’s A Contract with God, to the dark mysteries of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, the postmodern superheroics of Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight, and breakout books such as Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and R. Crumb’s The Book of Genesis. It’s all here in this newly updated edition, which contains the must-reads, the milestones, the most recent developments, and what to look for in the future of this exciting medium.

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Representing Multiculturalism in Comics and Graphic Novels

Multiculturalism, and its representation, has long presented challenges for the medium of comics. This book presents a wide ranging survey of the ways in which comics have dealt with the diversity of creators and characters and the (lack of) visibility for characters who don’t conform to particular cultural stereotypes. Contributors engage with ethnicity and other cultural forms from Israel, Romania, North America, South Africa, Germany, Spain, U.S. Latino and Canada and consider the ways in which comics are able to represent multiculturalism through a focus on the formal elements of the medium. Discussion themes include education, countercultures, monstrosity, the quotidian, the notion of the ‘other,” anthropomorphism, and colonialism. Taking a truly international perspective, the book brings into dialogue a broad range of comics traditions.