ICv2 Stars: 4 (out of 5)
Posted by Brigid Alverson on June 8, 2020 @ 12:31 am CT
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Release Date: June 16 (Book Channel)/June 17, 2020 (Direct Market)
Creator(s): Lun Zhang, Adrien Gombeaud (writers) and Ameziane (artist)
Format: 112 pgs., Full-Color, 7"x9", Hardcover
Age Rating: 17+
ICv2 Rating: 4 Stars out of 5
The image most strongly associated with the occupation of Beijing's Tiananmen Square, the lone man standing defiantly in front of a line of tanks, is so powerful that it has almost taken over the story of everything that happened before. Lun Zhang brings the story back into the foreground in his memoir of the events, Tiananmen 1989: Our Shattered Hopes.
While the subtitle gives away the ending, Zhang’s account is filled with the excitement of young people discovering the political power of mass resistance. In 1989 he was a 26-year-old sociology teacher, slightly older and a bit more worldly than the students who took over the square. He lays out the historical events leading up to the protests as well as the politics surrounding them, and he takes us inside the meetings, marches, and ultimately, the occupation of the square. He has a remarkable ability to tell a complicated story with clarity, taking the reader step by step through the events and introducing the main players one by one. Most of his account is his own personal experiences, but the final massacre is narrated by a BBC reporter, as Zhang was not in the square when it took place. In fact, he went on the run immediately afterwards, ending up in France, where this graphic novel was first published.
Zhang has something to say about that famous photograph of the protestor facing down the tanks. While he acknowledges that it has become a symbol of the revolution, he also points out that it is misleading: The photo was taken the day after the massacre. The previous night, the tanks had rolled right over the students.
Ameziane uses a blend of photo-referenced art and more abstract images, sometimes showing the events as if in a news photo, other times bringing the reader into intimate moments of the meetings and protests. Zhang himself appears as the narrator, but thanks to the deft artwork and the compelling story, this book never feels like a lecture.
While the age rating is 17+, this graphic novel has no content that would disturb younger readers (there is some violence, but it’s not gory). In fact, the subject matter would probably appeal to high school students, as the power of youth movements has a timeless appeal. It's also a good read for adults with an interest in history and politics, as it is a valuable eyewitness narrative of one of the most significant events of our time.
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