A People's History of American Empire
A Graphic Adaptation
Adapted from the bestselling grassroots history of the United States, the story of America in the world, told in comics form
Since its landmark publication in 1980, A People's History of the United States has had six new editions, sold more than 1.7 million copies, become required classroom reading throughout the country, and been turned into an acclaimed play. More than a successful book, A People's History triggered a revolution in the way history is told, displacing the official versions with their emphasis on great men in high places to chronicle events as they were lived, from the bottom up.
Now Howard Zinn, historian Paul Buhle, and cartoonist Mike Konopacki have collaborated to retell, in vibrant comics form, a most immediate and relevant chapter of A People's History: the centuries-long story of America's actions in the world. Narrated by Zinn, this version opens with the events of 9/11 and then jumps back to explore the cycles of U.S. expansionism from Wounded Knee to Iraq, stopping along the way at World War I, Central America, Vietnam, and the Iranian revolution. The book also follows the story of Zinn, the son of poor Jewish immigrants, from his childhood in the Brooklyn slums to his role as one of America's leading historians.
Shifting from world-shattering events to one family's small revolutions, A People's History of American Empire presents the classic ground-level history of America in a dazzling new form.
This \x93graphic adaptation\x94 of Howard Zinn's A People's History of American Empire is, on almost every level, a disappointment. Its basic concept seems to be a Cliff's Notes version of the original, implying that the comics format makes information more accessible, without realizing that perhaps information might be lost in the process. The problems begin with introducing a caricature of Zinn as the narrator. We see Zinn at a podium, speaking the text of his book. One might suppose Zinn is an eccentric old professor, and this caricature does him no favors. From there the caricatures continue. Weakly rendered versions of American figures follow: the artwork by Konopacki resembles a high school yearbook artist's \x93humor\x94 drawings. None of this would be quite so offensive if it wasn't such a squandered opportunity. Historical and polemical comics can be done well (James Sturm, Jack Jackson, Joe Sacco and others are masters of it), but when the artwork detracts and the whole thing feels like a grade-school exercise, it's hard to take seriously. And that's too bad, as Zinn is an important voice. In this case, however, he's been silenced.