On -isms: Run for It Review

By | Thursday, October 12, 2017 Leave a Comment
While I try to jeep my eyes and ears open to everything across the world, I do have a tendency to focus on the United States. And while I've discussed here some of the racial issues that are frequently a holdover from slavery, it winds up being US-centric. However, the US is hardly the only country that has an ugly history with slavery, which brings me to Run for It by Marcelo D'Salete. It was originally published in 2014 in Brazil, but Fantagraphics just released an English translation this week.

The book contains four distinct stories with four different tales of slaves who rebelled and/or tried to escape from their captors in Brazil. Each character comes to their decision from very different directions: fear of being sold off away from their love, the death of a newborn, a collective uprising, and revenge against the rape and murder of a loved one. Needless to say, the protagonists here all have very powerful drivers, even beyond just a desire to escape captivity. This helps to get the readers more emotionally engaged and involved, as few, if any, of the book's readers have likely experienced slavery themselves. But by coupling that idea with these other emotive elements which are probably more familiar, it draws the reader in more deeply.

The art and storytelling are very good, and given the sparse use of text, this is quite necessary to convey the stories. While the stories aren't wordless, there are several sequences here in which pages go by without any text. D'Salete is able to rely on his drawings to convey the narrative and, with one very brief exception, is successful. That one exception, since I mentioned it, is a sequence in the third story during a large fight scene where one of the characters is killed, but it's a little difficult to tell specifically who it is. While it is soon made more apparent, it doesn't look to me as if D'Salete was deliberately obscuring the character's identity but rather the particular illustration isn't quite as clear as it could be. Two panels out of a 166 pages of story makes for a pretty impressive track record, though!

While the stories are all very compelling and engaging, as I said, that is what precisely what makes this a difficult read. Because none of these stories end well. And the horrors the slave owners put these people through is chilling. Made all the more so by the fact that these tales, while perhaps partially fictionalized, are based on real events. The book is clearly well-researched and D'Salete provides a partial bibliography in the back. While the illustrations aren't especially graphic and not really gory at all, they still clearly depict the atrocious acts inflicted on these slaves, and the casual disregard -- even contempt -- the slave owners show towards them.

While these stories happened in Brazil, I don't doubt the played out exactly the same in the United States. And China. And Spain. And Canada. And every other country that at one time or another included race-based slavery. It's hard not to see these stories as sadly universal ones that could be put into almost any cultural context. And that's partially why I see this as an important read. You can read or watch Roots, and you can check out your (probably heavily white-washed) history textbooks, but you don't often get stories with this emotional depth that also aren't afraid to show the real outcomes -- the ones that aren't happy endings -- many slaves faced.

Run for It is currently available in hardcover for $24.99 or digitally for $13.85.
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