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The Golem's Mighty Swing

(Americana #1)

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  519 ratings  ·  58 reviews
James Sturm pens this richly evocative graphic novel set in the 1920s. The Stars of David, a barnstorming Jewish baseball team, travel from town to town earning a living by playing local squads. They all sport beards, a gimmick to attract patrons but when financial difficulties threaten to end their season they cast their lot with a Chicago promoter who has just seen the h
Paperback, 100 pages
Published May 1st 2003 by Drawn and Quarterly (first published 2001)
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Average rating 3.66  · 
Rating details
 ·  519 ratings  ·  58 reviews

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David Schaafsma
In Jewish folklore, a golem is an animated anthropomorphic being that is magically created entirely from clay or mud. Sturm’s narrator has it: “A golem is a creature that man creates to be a companion, protector, servant.. . . “ but because they have no souls. . . “eventually they become destroyers.”

James Sturm, the Director of the Center for Cartoon Studies, is the author of Market Day, the Adventures in Cartooning series and Satchel Paige, many years a star of the Negro League who finally mad
Jan 11, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: resources-for-ya
This took less than an hour to read. I don't care much for baseball, but the racial tensions expressed through historical American pop culture are compelling, and the art and simple storytelling are mesmerizing. Kind of frustrated the story ends so abruptly, but I get that's how serial novels keep you hooked. Not sure this is the right book for young reluctant readers; seems more to serve the interests of mature readers with some facility with the historical context.
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Solid graphic novel about a travelling Jewish baseball team in the 1920s.
Tony Cafiso
May 05, 2014 rated it liked it
The Golem's Mighty Swing is a story about the first Jewish baseball team. It goes into detail on two games in specific and the bad experiences they had in one certain town that they played in. To summarize, other players and fans all hate them because they are Jewish. One player gets beaten up pretty badly at a bar in town and the next day many of the fans jump down from the stairs and try to attack them during a game.
It is always interesting to learn about baseball back when it was just starti
Reuven Fischer
Nov 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: graphic-novel
A secular Jewish Minor league team discovers there are no atheists in the dugout. The Golem's Mighty Swing looks at the religious tensions encountered by The Stars of David, a Jewish touring Minor League baseball team in the 1920's. With a lot of Play-by-Play action, this book should be a hit with Baseball fans, The anti semitic tensions coupled with the teams secret weapon... A "Golem" makes for an exciting story. The last section of the book appears to be filler loosely based on the main story ...more
Aug 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Narrated by Noah Strauss or as he calls himself “the Zion Lion,” manager and third baseman for the Stars of David minor league baseball club touring and playing other teams sometime in the early decades of the twentieth century. When the Stars of David, “The Bearded Wandering Wonders,” are hit with a perfect storm of economic woes, they turn to a promoter who proposes dressing their one African American player, Henry, or as he’s known on the field, “Hershl Bloom (member of the lost tribe),” into ...more
Maxwell Bauman
Apr 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I got a copy of this graphic novel at AWP in Portland. Anything with a golem in it will peak my interest. As luck would have it, James Sturm was there and not only signed my copy, but he did a little illustration too!
Sturm tackles the issues of anti-Semitism and racism in the lens of a Jewish baseball team (the Stars of David) playing in the 1920s. The story made me think of Bernard Malamud's "The Natural," another story of Jews playing baseball.
This was a fun, quick read. I finished in one sitt
Brian Sierkowski
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was ok
A thin, quick read that attempts to tackle a complex issue (antisemitism) through the lens of 1920s American baseball culture. The author paints a colorful background to set the stage, then seems in a rush to close things out just as the climax hits. A hundred pages aren't enough for even the best conventional storyteller to pull off a multifaceted tale that deals with intricate topics; within a graphic novel format it is closer to impossible. An author as talented as Sturm could crush this as a ...more
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
This was a little odd. First, it was definitely not what I expected out of James Sturm, mostly because I'm familiar with him through Adventures in Cartooning. I get that it's a historical fiction comic book, but it still didn't really hit home for me - it felt like there were pages missing here and there, because there wasn't necessarily a clear through-line from some parts to others.
Sep 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Graphic novel about a 1920s Jewish barnstorming baseball team. A good baseball book and a look at the racism and anti-Semitism prevalent at the time. The first half is stronger than the second half. Unfortunately, there was not a single female character in the entire book. Not one.
Sierra Dean
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics
Read for TLP

Really enjoyed this one.
Oct 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is great. Baseball, racism, anti-Semitism, histories we ignore, very good art.
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
Why did I read this? I don't like baseball.
Matthew Metzdorf
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novel
The ending feels like someone tore out the last 20 pages but this was a great graphic novel about a traveling Jewish baseball he in the 20s
Jun 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
race relations. told in two parts.
Cameron Booth
Aug 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Quick read, enjoyed it. Interesting story
Jan 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It's not often I hand out a 5-star rating to a graphic novel, but The Golem's Mighty Swing definitely earned it. The seemingly deceptively straightforward and unfussy art wonderfully conveys the sense and spirit of barnstorming baseball, via a travelling team known as Zion's Lions, all of whose members, except for one, are Jews. The story itself find no need to club (pardon the pun) at its intro the reader over the head with its tale of lurking anti-semitism and racism.

What is remarkable about
Apr 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing

I read one of James Sturm's other books and was pretty pleased with his work, so I set out to read a few others- This particular one is about a baseball team... but you needn't know anything about baseball, to get something very significant, very REAL out of it.

In the 1920's, there was a phenomenon in which travelling baseball teams (usually 'themed' in some way, weather real- like an all-black team- or fake, like a 'hillbilly' team playing the fools) would go around the country booking themselv
Jun 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
THE GOLEM’S MIGHTY SWING snuck up on me. Despite being aware of some glowing reviews before my reading of the story, my expectations were subdued--I could not imagine that something so spare with its dialogue and relatively few frames for its hundred pages could wield such power. As I read though I began to feel the slights suffered by the almost all Jewish baseball team barnstorming 1920s America. Despite baseball’s laconic nature, the turns of fortune are usually sudden and thus hitting with a ...more
Robert Beveridge
James Sturm, The Golem's Mighty Swing (Drawn and Quarterly, 2003)

Ah, the glory days of baseball, when the game was played by little travelling teams who catered to niche markets. Such is the atmosphere of James Sturm's The Golem's Mighty Swing, a graphic novel set during the Depression and featuring an all-Jewish (with one black guy wryly described as a member of the lost tribe) team who travels the country in a broken-down bus playing in the bush leagues. They run into a promoter who decides th
Graphic historical novel about the Star of David baseball team barnstorming during the Depression is told in three unequal episodes. A promoter promises bigger money if the team pretends one of its players, the only non-Jewish player, a former Negro Leagues slugger named Henry Bell working under the name Hershel Bloom, is a Golem. Bell looks the part, gigantic, dark, and thickly muscled. In the first episode the player-manager narrator dismisses the idea but after their rickety bus breaks down a ...more
Dec 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
I wanted to give this 5 stars, I really did, but the ending fell very flat.

However, the rest of the story is a gem - the history is spot on and it makes you wince at this country's past just as much as it makes you cheer for the people willing to literally risk death in order to try and break down barriers. The team risks a lot just to play the national pastime - at one point a potential lynching is called off only on account of rain.

There's a lot more going on here than just baseball, - the g
Garrett Zecker
Aug 27, 2015 rated it liked it
This was a great little graphic novel about a ragtag Jewish baseball team The Stars of David early in the 20th century. It is part sports drama, part vaudevillian showcase, and part historical footnote commenting on the antisemitic tendencies of some backward small towns.

With beautiful art and a simple narrative, the book turns the spectacle of America’s greatest pastime into a mythical battle of epic proportions on the field of America’s history of racial and religious intolerance.

My only compl
Jay Daze
An atmospheric graphic novel about an all Jewish team touring the old baseball leagues and the rascism they face.

Ironically the one player who isn't Jewish, Henry Bell who played 20 years in the negro leagues, is set up by a promoter to play the Golem as a gimick to generate excitement and money. Except it also stirs up even more racism by playing to sterotypes.

I don't know if the book felt like an emotional whole. The final coda section seems to be there to show how effective sterotypes are a
Jul 16, 2007 rated it liked it
Just realized I did not write a little note on this one after I read it. Anyhow, this was a nice little book looking at a Jewish baseball team in the 1920s. The book gives a good look not only at baseball in a time of traveling exhibition teams, but it also looks at a time when racism and ignorance were common and rampant (I could make the crack about how that has not changed. Oh wait, I just did). Anyhow, the book has a good story, and the art is very good. The art complements the story nicely, ...more
Melissa Mcavoy
What an intriguing and odd does a great job highlighting the various barnstorming teams that existed in the early 20th century- Jewish teams, religious teams, African American and Native American teams and points up how lurid traveling entertainment of all kids, including baseball, was before we had daytime television and reality t.v. to absorb us.

There is a lot to love, and kids interested in baseball and the compelling underdog story of an all Jewish team with a central African Americ
Aug 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This graphic novel follows the travels and travails of the Stars of David, a barnstorming baseball team of the 1920s with one black player.

An enterprising promoter suggests that they bill themselves as having a Golem, since a movie with that subject matter had recently been released to great fanfare.

This is one of those comics that makes you realize the incredible power of the form, as it takes the reader inside to see what it must have been like to be playing against a backdrop of hate.
Nov 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: high school and above
Sturm is wonderful. His art reminds me of Matthew Brady or Look magazine photographs. They are perfect, gritty and real. He makes baseball and American history something do be loved, studied and enjoyed. The Golems Mighty Swing is about a team of Jewish barnstormers in the 20s (think Harlem Globetrotters w/bats). "Above And Below" has two stories The Revival (the Above in the title) takes place in the early 1800s, and Hundreds Of Feet Below Daylight (the Below) a story of gold mining in the late ...more
Feb 01, 2008 rated it it was ok
This might have been a very good baseball story if it had been longer and better developed. As it is I felt that it ended so abruptly and randomly that I was left hanging on the verge of indifference. I am more disappointed than anything – all the stuff is here for a wonderful story, it just struck out on the pitch that it should have hit out of the park.
(note: although I should, I have no shame whatsoever about ending my review with such a weak baseball metaphor).
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James Sturm is the author of several award-winning graphic novels for children and adults, including James Sturm’s America, Market Day, The Golem’s Mighty Swing and Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow. He is also the founder of the Center for Cartoon Studies and the National Association for Comics Art Educators. He created Adventures in Cartooning with collaborators Alexis Frederic-Frost and Andr ...more

Other books in the series

Americana (2 books)
  • Above and Below: Two Stories of the American Frontier