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Strange Fruit, Volume I: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  738 ratings  ·  167 reviews
Strange Fruit, Volume I is a collection of stories from African American history that exemplifies success in the face of great adversity. This unique graphic anthology offers historical and cultural commentary on nine uncelebrated heroes whose stories are not often found in history books. Among the stories included are: Henry "Box" Brown, who escaped from slavery by ...more
Paperback, 172 pages
Published May 1st 2014 by Fulcrum Publishing
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Arden Belrose Yes. They might need some assistance in understanding some words but everything else is easily comprehensible.

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Most people are struck by the title Strange Fruit. It brings back horrific memories of America's sordid past. But Gill is not focused on that narrative. His purpose is to uplift those that rose in the face of oppression and were able to "cut the rope" that lynched them. Told in vignettes that celebrate unsung heroes of times past, Strange Fruit is a compilation of graphic stories fit for the entire family. I used this book as bedtime stories for my children. Before I knew it my husband was
Mar 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-s-book
Where do I start?! Honestly, I saw the cover a few times here and there on a few blogs (very few) but did not think anything of it at all. The title was a bit of a turn-off and I had not a clue to what was behind the cover. Why was I put off by the title? Well as a Black woman the phrase "Strange Fruit" (coined by a poem Billie Holiday sang) brings the worst feelings from seeing pictures of Blacks who were hung from trees. Needless to say, I thought this book would be a downer. But when I saw ...more
I stumbled upon this hidden gem while doing the Read Harder challenge. The task was to read a non super hero comic that debuted in the last year. I was pleasantly surprised and pleased that someone recommended this book and that my library had an e-book copy to lend. Though I think oddly titled, the intent was to reclaim the phrase or at least to add a new interpretation. Strange fruit for me has connotations of lynching. Strange fruit here is meant to connote uncommon or unfamiliar sweet, juicy ...more
Mar 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-15, edelweiss
If he'd featured uncelebrated women of color, this book would've gotten the full five stars.

I genuinely hope volume 2 will be for the women.

This is so wonderful. So many of the stories I had to hide behind my computer screen in case my coworker saw me tearing up. At the same time, there's humor, and heart. The subject of Jim Crow is done in such a glorious way, an evil flock of crows coming after people.

Two Letters was my favorite. Both the story, and the style. It probably did the most damage
Aug 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Fantastic. The biographies are very well written. It took a few pages for the art to grow on me, but by the time I finished the book I loved it. And the people that Gill chose to include are somewhat unusual and obscure, as well as being incredibly interesting. Maybe the best thing is that this is volume one, and there will eventually be at least one more.
This is beautifully illustrated and extremely readable. What I like about this is it features more well known stories, like that of Henry Box Brown with less well known stories like The Malaga of Maine. I would say this is appropriate for grade school aged children
Darshil Patel
May 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
I don't think I can review this book. I have mixed feelings regarding this book. However I suggest you to read once. It's a great read......
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Joel Christian Gill accomplished his task with this graphic novel of telling the stories of 9 exceptional African Americans and their quest to always move forward. Each of these people were new to me, and told in snapshots through colorful illustrations that was both enjoyable and easy to retain. Each of them, sparked in me, the need to learn more and know more about them. The bibliography is well documented as well, making my forward quest easier in search of more about each person.
David Schaafsma
Like Nate Powell's March series, this is a historical work focusing on African Americans, few of whom I knew about at all. The stories are about told in much depth, but they are of essentially unknown ("uncelebrated," as he says) people (vs., say, the well-known Sen John Lewis, featured in The March, Lewis's first person story) but the stories are often compelling and worth retelling, such as Henry "Box" Brown who mailed himself in a box to freedom, and lived to write a book about it. Or Henry ...more
I really wish the illustrations on the inside matched the illustration on the cover.
Based on that cover, I expected something adjacent to Rick Geary's style - instead, this reminded me of Trickster: Native American Tales and District Comics - in style, as well as form.

This is a collection of underexposed nonfiction stories about Black Americans. We meet Henry "Box" Brown, the first known black magician, a black cyclist, and more and more. These stories absolutely need to be told.

A Battleground
Jun 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Joel Christian Gill’s Strange Fruit: Uncelebrated Narratives From Black History (Fulcrum) can be called many things: The paneled graphic storytelling suggests “comic book”; the real-life characters and subjects say “history book”; the simplified facial expressions and boxy drawing technique imply “children’s book” or “educational tool.” And it does qualify as all those things. But what Gill has done in this first volume of his collected Strange Fruit mini-comics is pretty remarkable. He’s ...more
Jun 30, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: comic
This book could have done so much more. The stories were too short and simple. I think, judging by the tone and humor, that the intended audience (tween?) could have handled more depth. It's conspicuously marked as "Volume 1" so I don't think a space argument holds water. At first I was annoyed by each story starting with a dictionary definition--a tired literary device, and annoying to be repeated every five pages--but then the author drops it about half-way through, which alters the feeling ...more
Feb 20, 2019 rated it liked it
I really liked the exploration of lesser-known figures from black history/american history. His cover is gorgeous but the rest of the art was a bit too simplistic for me, maybe because it is full-color, but doesn't really use color fully? Not sure.
Deal Joel Christian Gill,


Strange Fruit, Volume I: Uncelebrated Black Narratives mixes thoroughly researched histories, and complicated adult situations into an easily read and comprehensible book that belongs in every elementary classroom library. He handles racial tension and other atrocities with tact that could easily spark critical thinking and discussions within a young reader. Jim crow is pictured as a ‘black red-eyed crow’ and anytime someone gets married and has a child---you can bet a
May 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Overall, I enjoyed the book. I really love all the historical graphic novels that have been coming out. The premise of "uncelebrated narratives" appeals to me and it's sad that so many stories are lost to history. I appreciate the author's intent to shed light on these men's stories. A few things did annoy me though. As my friend Miri mentioned in her review, no women are chronicled in this graphic novel. Hopefully in volume 2 but that is yet to be seen. Second, I did quick online searches on ...more
Joel Christian Gill is a powerful storyteller. Of course, these are powerful stories about people making it in the face of impossible odds.

So many of these stories are as horrifying as they are inspiring.

You can't read these powerful stories in a single sitting. You have to read one and ruminate on such courage in the face of insurmountable obstacles.

And listen to Billie Holiday singing Strange Fruit while reading at least part of this comic. Though Nina Simone has a pretty fantastic,
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
I was really excited to be inspired by lesser-known true stories of Black history and really enjoyed the art (although at times a bit too comic strip-like, the manifestation of Jim Crow strikes terror) and short stories until I came to the depiction of stereotyped Native Americans speaking in pictographs. "C'mon, he has to have a reason for this blatant inaccuracy", I thought to myself. He even mentions them in a note and a bibliography, but this only makes it worse by acknowledging his choice ...more
Between this and The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Readers Edition, this month in the Teen Scene we've been yelling about local students not being impressed enough by our booktalks about #BlackExcellence. This is a really visually interesting volume about some lesser-known black men who accomplished great things. Each individual story is interesting and inspiring, highlighting the way these men (and they are all men--hopefully Vol 2 gets some ladies) overcame Jim Crow without focusing too ...more
A collection of illustrated stories about less well-known African-American men from history, all of whom set firsts or otherwise made a mark in some unexpected way. I definitely learned a bit and I liked the art style - the author/illustrator does interesting work with speech bubbles, where an entire dialogue can be conveyed simply with an illustration instead of words in the bubble. I would have liked to see oh, maybe at least one woman? They, um, have done some remarkable stuff, too. There ...more
Oct 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphic-novels, ya
This was great! I knew a little about one slave "who had shipped himself to freedom!" So Excellent. My favorite was the first African American basketball player. Today the NBA is mostly African American. Compared that landscape to how the league like 100 years ago...during Jim do the math... Henry Louis Gates was one of the authors of this awesome book and this is a great introduction to the things we would often look over not only in African American history, but in American history ...more
May 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Excellent all around, from premise to style to illustration to content. Just realized that I don't think he profiles a single woman, which is fairly lame. But I loved everything else, especially the way he illustrates Jim Crow, which is so absolutely fantastic. Some of the stories I knew, like Bass Reeves, but most I didn't, and I love nothing more than expanding our narrow Eurocentric history to include everyone else who was shut out. Loved the random pop-cultural references, too, like someone ...more
Nicola Mansfield
Apr 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Excellent! Completely engrossing! Well done! The title and summary describe the contents well enough without me repeating them, so let me just say that I found the tales told here to be fascinating and Gill's voice was entertaining while his illustration is lush. They are indeed unique tales, not ones most of us have heard before, which makes them all the more entertaining. I had only heard of one man whose story is told here and that is Henry "Box" Brown, but only because my son's class went to ...more
 〽️•〽️JR 〽️•〽️
Another solid short stories Graphic novel narrative of famous African-Americans in history that aren't the traditional stories we hear most often.
I love that this series highlights others African-Americans who changed the world.
Our school history books lead you to believe it was the only handful of blacks who influenced and invented ideas & products we use today. There were so many African-Americans who had a huge impact on American history and beyond the U.S. My favorite part about this
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was pretty good. The majority of the stories were ones that I had never heard before, so I learned a lot. Some of the illustrations are a bit exaggerated but also unique. I think they fit the way the author told the stories. I also like the creative liberties he took. He was able to add a bit of fun to what was and is a harsh reality. I was left wanting to know more. I would definitely be interested in a second volume.
Apr 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What an amazing collection! As a product of public education, it didn't surprise me that I have not heard of a single person in this series. I really enjoyed his depiction of all those hateful racist as crows. The more I saw this depiction, the more I began to see it in pictures throughout history. The pictures from public lynchings, Ruby Bridge as she walked to school, those aggressors yelling at Woolworth, they all have been transformed into angry crows "CAWING". I hope there are more volumes ...more
Nov 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Christmas presents I read them first then hand them out, it was on my too read list, it's nice I think it's a great present for a 6th grade history teacher. Graphic book I do not usually read a graphic novel but enjoyed this exception to the rule. Four stars.
Michael Prier
Dec 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Short stories in graphic novel form about forgotten histories surrounding African Americans. Very interesting and informative. The artwork was okay.
Jul 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Had me tearing up all over the place and left me wanting to know more. Handy bibliography in the back to help with just that.
Jun 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Delightfully inventive art paired with unforgettable historical happenings, what more could you want.
Feb 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014, edw-arc, azr, rec-mg-nf
So happy that this is Volume I, because I would very much like to read more. These biographies in comic form were captivating and informative. I was vaguely familiar with only a couple of these stories; most of them were totally new to me.

The only thing I didn't like was that several of the stories ended kind of abruptly, but that is understandable given that there's no further documented history for these folks.

Every year my students do a historical timeline. They choose a historical
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Get Graphic: #6 - Strange Fruit 1 4 Feb 15, 2017 10:55AM  
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Madison Mega-Mara...: #168 Strange Fruit by Joel Christian Gill 1 1 Dec 01, 2015 01:54PM  

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Joel Christian Gill is a cartoonist and historian who speaks nationally on the importance of sharing stories. He wrote the words and drew the pictures in Fast Enough: Bessie Stringfield’s First Ride
(published by Lion Forge, 2019) and the award-winning graphic novel series Strange Fruit: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History, as
well as, Tales of The Talented Tenth from Fulcrum Publishing. He