Named The Year's Best Graphic Novel by Publishers Weekly
Named one of Publishers Weekly's Top Ten Best Books of 2023
Named a Best Book of 2023 by NPR
Named one of Kirkus' Best 2023 Books
Named one of the Washington Post's 10 best graphic novels of 2023
One of TIME Magazine's Must-Read Books of the Year
Shortlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction 2024
New York Public Library's Best New Comics of 2023 Top Ten Pick
Chicago Public Library's Best Books of 2023 Top Ten Pick
Named one of School Library Journal's Best Graphic Novels of 2023
Named one of The Guardian's Best Graphic Novels of 2023
Darrin Bell was six years old when his mother told him he couldn’t have a realistic water gun. She said she feared for his safety, that police tend to think of little Black boys as older and less innocent than they really are.
Through evocative illustrations and sharp humor, Bell examines how The Talk shaped intimate and public moments from childhood to adulthood. While coming of age in Los Angeles—and finding a voice through cartooning—Bell becomes painfully aware of being regarded as dangerous by white teachers, neighbors, and police officers and thus of his mortality. Drawing attention to the brutal murders of African Americans and showcasing revealing insights and cartoons along the way, he brings us up to the moment of reckoning when people took to the streets protesting the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. And now Bell must decide whether he and his own six-year-old son are ready to have The Talk.
Pulitzer Prize–winning cartoonist Bell, known for his syndicated strip Candorville, delivers an unflinching debut graphic memoir that balances gravity, vulnerability, and humor in relaying his life as a Black man and parent. When he was a child in 1981, a terrifying standoff with a pair of Dobermans left an indelible imprint that became a metaphor for future racist interactions. Later, after Bell's white mother prohibited him from playing outside with a water gun, she attempted "the talk," a conversation between Black parents and their children about living while Black. She cautioned, "White people won't see you or treat you the way they do little white boys." When he sneaked out the toy regardless, it resulted in a tense encounter with a police officer who seemed to morph into the dogs. (The episode is drawn to evoke the memory of Tamir Rice, who is listed along with other names in a haunting dedication page memorial.) Indeed, racism pervaded Bell's life into adulthood: he was bullied, surveilled, and falsely accused of delinquency and plagiarism. His career as a cartoonist is a through line, from childhood drawing to his professional impact that garnered hate mail and swayed public opinion with sometimes devastating consequences. Reckoning with his identity during an ongoing history of racialized violence, Bell recounts how his father's inability to give "the talk" still haunts him and takes on greater significance when Bell's own son asks about George Floyd. The narrative, drawn awash in a blue hue, artfully interweaves sepia flashbacks and artifacts of 1980s pop culture (from Mr. Potato Head to Star Trek) highlighted with flashes of color. This emotionally striking work is sure to leave a lasting mark.