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Stuff for the Teen Age

Hamilton Grange Library Hosts Graphic Novelist Joel Christian Gill

Joel Christian Gill. Photo taken by author.

This weekend, thousands upon thousands of people will flock to New York City's Javits Center to participate in New York Comic Con: a celebration of comic books, graphic novels, and the culture that surrounds the graphic genres that is rivaled by very few.

When you're immersed in the comic book/graphic novel culture, as many librarians are, it's very easy to get excited about new graphic novels and the events that highlight them, like Comic Con. If you've never been exposed to those books and genres, or are under the impression that comics and graphic novels are not "real" books, it can be difficult to find them interesting or to get excited about them.

However, recently, Hamilton Grange Library was lucky enough to witness an author change that perception for an audience of students!

On September 16, Hamilton Grange had the exceptional honor of hosting an author visit with graphic novelist Joel Christian Gill at the New Heights Academy Charter School. Mr. Gill met with approximately 100 students at New Heights and immediately got them interested in fascinating and lesser-known historical figures from Black history.

Joel Christian Gill addresses students. Photo by author.

Mr. Gill's most recent graphic novel, Bessie Stringfield: Tales of the Talented Tenth—coming soon to the Library's collection—is the second in his Talented Tenth series. Stringfield, also known as the "Motorcycle Queen of Miami," was the first black woman to ride her motorcycle solo across the US and served as one of the few despatch riders for the US Military in World War II. The first volume, Bass Reeves: Tales of the Talented Tenth, highlights the life and the history of Bass Reeves, one of the first black Deputy U.S. Marshals west of the Mississippi. It's believed by many historians that the Lone Ranger's character is based on Reeves' life.

Mr. Gill shared information about both of the featured historical figures in his Talented Tenth series, as well as the collection of figures he writes about in his book Strange Fruit. The books' publisher, Fulcrum Publishing, kindly donated copies of each book for Mr. Gill to give to students. He interspersed this information with questions about the figures that he had just highlighted.


Joel Christian Gill at New Heights Academy
Question & Answer session. Photo by author.

Dozens of students were nearly jumping out of their seats to answer every one of his questions and those who answered correctly were rewarded with a copy of one of Mr. Gill's books. It was a sight to make any librarian's heart happy. After his talk, Mr. Gill stuck around to sign copies of his books for the students.

It is hard to convey in writing how excellent it was to see middle school students getting so excited to read these graphic novels, especially as they focused on lesser known historical figures. I will be going to this year's Comic Con with the intent of finding more authors and artists who, I hope, will incite this same excitement in the young patrons who visit Hamilton Grange Library.


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