Ten Great Comics to Celebrate Black History Month

By Jason Larsen 

A screen capture of the Comics Plus app featuring their Black History Month selections.

The Comics Plus app is a great way to read comics online. This month they are also featuring comics by Black creators in honor of Black History month.

The University of Illinois Library maintains a diverse offering of comics not only in our main stacks but also through our Comics Plus application. A couple of the wonderful features about the Comics Plus Application is that you can view it on any computer or mobile device and the content is free to all university faculty, staff, and students.

In celebration of Black History Month, we wanted to share some of our comic recommendations that we feel highlight Black creators or history in comics. We encourage you to check on the works below in the application and/or explore to find your own new favorites.

Anthology – Black Comix Returns (Damien Duffy, John Jennings, Various)

This offering is the second in the series and not only highlights work from various independent Black creators in different genres but also has a direct connection to the University of Illinois. The series is in part compiled by our own alumnus, Dr. Damien Duffy. If you are looking to get a sampling of the types of comic materials out there then look no further than this series.

Biography – Fame: Lil Nas X (Darren G. Davis and Victor Moura)

Lil Nas X is an award-winning rapper whose rise to fame in the last several years has earned the notice of national magazines like Time and Forbes who note he has become an influential force in today’s music scene. This recent release is the story of Lil Nas X’s early years in Atlanta to his breakout hit “Old Town Road”.

Comic Strips – The Boondocks: Because I Know You Don’t Read the Newspaper (Aaron McGruder)

This groundbreaking strip took newspapers by storm with its unique art style and no holds barred take on social topics we are still struggling with today. It also spawned a successful, if not equally controversial, animated cartoon that ran for four seasons on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. While there has been no new Boondocks material for some time, you can still enjoy it from the beginning with this first collected volume of the newspaper strips.

Comic Studies – Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books (Ken Quattro, Alvin Hollingsworth, E.C. Stoner, and Matt Baker)

The tapestry of American comic books is composed of stories created by a multitude of creators. However, much like other fields, the early contributions of Black creators were omitted from the narrative in favor of names we are all familiar with today. This book is the culmination of 20 years of research that explores the Black pioneers of early American comics that should not be missed.

The cover of "Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books" by Ken Quattro, Alvin Hollingsworth, E.C. Stoner, and Matt Baker

Fantasy – Djeliya (Juni Ba)

A fantasy graphic novel set in a world inspired by West African folklore and cultural stories going back centuries. Creator Juni Ba takes us on a wild and winding quest that not only touches on trying to save a dying world but also learning the deeper secrets to myths and traditions that make up a culture along the way.

Historical Fiction/Mystery – Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery (Mat Johnson)

A unique and chilling suspense mystery set in the early 20th Century American South era of public lynching. African American men who could “pass” as white and attempt to expose these atrocities were known as going “incognegro”. A New York reporter goes to the South to investigate the arrest of a black man for the murder of white woman before they become the next victim of a lynch mob. Can this reporter successfully expose the truth about the murder and the secrets he uncovers while “incognegro” when the accused is his own brother?

History/Biography – Billie Holliday (Carlos Sampayo and Jose Muñoz)

Billie Holliday’s song “Strange Fruit” brought the lynchings in the South to the forefront of US culture in 1939. Yet despite her career being tied to this powerful protest song, her life was marred by controversy and addiction. This biography explores her life and seeks the truth in an attempt to correct the record about the singer’s life and legacy.

LGBTQ +/Romance – The Sacrifice of Darkness (Roxane Gay, Tracy Lynne Oliver, James Fenner, and Rebecca Kirby)

Bestselling author Roxane Gay takes her short story and expands it into a full-length graphic novel. Set in a dystopian world forever covered by darkness there is little light to be found. Follow one woman’s journey that explores the boundaries of family, identity, love, and survival while discovering if light can exist when the world is nothing but darkness.

Cover of "The Sacrifice of Darkness" by Roxane Gay, Tracy Lynne Oliver, James Fenner, and Rebecca Kirby.

Nonfiction/Comic Reference – The Access Guide to the Black Comic Book Community (2020-2021) (Dimitrios Fragiskatos, George Carmona 3rd, Joseph Illidge, and Various)

A guide that will serve all readers and fans who are new to comics, those who are experienced comic readers, and everyone in between. The guide is a collection of publishers, stores, and other similar resources that provide the reader with a plethora of information to help them navigate and further explore of the Black comic book community.

Cover of "The Access Guide to the Black Comic Book Community (2020-2021)" by Dimitrios Fragiskatos, George Carmona 3rd, Joseph Illidge, and Various.

Science Fiction – LaGuardia (Nnedi Okorafor and Tana Ford)

Set on an Earth that has become a destination hub for aliens this story explores themes of immigration, refugees, and equal rights through the lens of science fiction. Follow Nigerian-American doctor Future Nwafor Chukwuebuka and her illegal plant alien as they flee to New York. They will not only find themselves navigating the worlds of activism but also of impending parenthood in a country that is historically anything but welcoming to those who are different.

While the above are our favorite picks, there are many more to choose from on the Comics Plus application. We encourage you to not only try out our selections but also to explore the application and find your next new favorite comic. If you are unfamiliar with the Comics Plus application, the service provides our patrons with access to over 20,000 comics from 86 different publishers in a digital format. Check out the video links below as they provide additional details on the application.

Welcome to Comics Plus

How to Locate and Access Comics Plus

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Curing Academic Homesickness at UIUC

By: Vismaya Jayakumar, Master of Urban Planning 

Along with igniting tremendous trauma in millions of people around the world, COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted various inequities in access to health, education, food, mobility and more. The impact of the pandemic on vulnerable populations has brought to light several previously overlooked issues. One of the most vulnerable groups is international students, yet their issues are often overlooked by decision-makers.

Over the last several years, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has proudly housed thousands of international students (with an average growth rate of 4.6%). International students currently make up more than 22% of the student body at the university (more here), bringing new cultural ideas and prosperity. Amidst the chaos of the pandemic, travel bans, airport closures, rising unemployment rates, overseas money transfer struggles, ICE’s alarming notices, racism and xenophobia, and a feeling of isolation in a foreign country, one other issue the pandemic has underscored is the alienation of international students in academia resulting in, what I call, Academic Homesickness.

A photo of the COVID-19 walk in testing sites at Illinois

COVID-19 testing site at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Source: Chicago Tribune (https://www.chicagotribune.com/coronavirus/ct-covid-19-fall-enrollment-illinois-colleges-20200909-goq66touoregdetibhwc5ikiha-story.html)

Coming from a particular educational context, having read a different set of scholarship all through our educational careers, in our initial semesters here, many of us sit and stare at an assigned reading for a class and wonder how different it is. While this variance in perspectives undoubtedly adds to our knowledge, it also reduces opportunities for us to effectively bring our own ideas with confidence. In parallel, we who travelled thousands of miles looking for better education, some for a better life, often find ourselves in a complex state of cultural and educational bereavement. We are either constantly thinking about ways of giving back to the people and place we come from, or feeling guilty about not thinking of home enough. Including familiar scholarship can open up avenues for us international students to chase our dreams in a foreign place while still feeling at home.

Many of us move to the United States after two to three decades of living and studying in our home countries. With that deep-rooted influence, often times we try to bring our global perspectives to classrooms, be it social sciences, business, engineering, public health or art. We ponder on the relevance of previously learned things, and failing to connect them to our work here, we give up and give in to merely meeting graduation requirements. As an Indian student studying Urban Planning here, I believe the COVID-19 pandemic has only highlighted this disconnect in times of quarantine separation from our families, especially for us South Asians who may feel that they have little to no relevance in the academic setting.

With over 15% of the international student population being South Asian, and many of them being doctoral students and researchers, the Illinois Dissertations on South Asia at the International Area Studies library showcases the important past work of our fellow South Asians, and provides the rest of us with much needed inspiration. This collection of more than 140 dissertations and theses has been organized by country and topic for ease and convenience.

Beyond just the South Asian dissertation collection, the International and Area Studies (IAS) Library has an extensive focus on African Studies, East Asian Studies, European Studies, Global Studies, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Middle East and North African Studies, Russian East European and Eurasian Studies. More broadly, IAS provides monographs, articles, research journals, and digital content in various languages to support research. Due to the pandemic, many library resources including popular materials and other e-books and digital content are available online. For materials not available electronically, hard copies can be made available upon request (more here). Apart from the wide-ranging collection, the IAS library offers personalized orientation sessions for International students, both in-person and online research consultations, bibliographic training sessions, citation verification requests, one-on-one instruction sessions with subject specialists, and. Click here for more information on research consultation services and to contact subject specialists.

The pandemic and current political crises have heightened a sense of dislocation and isolation for many international students. The university is a microcosm of the real-world and with such diverse collections at our fingertips through the Library’s collections, we have tools to bridge intellectual distances, and foster innovative global research. This access cannot only remedy this feeling of academic homesickness, but also give us the confidence to go out and make real change.

Here is the IAS’s Illinois Dissertations on South Asia – Remedy to Academic Homesickness at the U of I.

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IASL Receives the Survived Collection of the Rekidai Hoan from the Ryukyu Kingdom

By Laila Hussein Moustafa, Assistant Professor, Middle East and North Africa Studies

On March 5, 2019, the International and Area Studies Library (IASL) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign received a donation from Professor Koji Taira. This collection consisted of diplomatic documents of the Rekidai Hoan from the Ryukyu Kingdom. Professor Koji Taira is an emeritus professor in Economics at the University of Illinois.

This blog post was originally published on Global Currents, the blog for the Center for Global Studies. To continue reading, view the original blog post.

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Preview of Graduate Assistant Digital Projects: Indonesia and Timor-Leste

This cart of in the IAS library holds books that GAs Laura and Mariah are using to complete research for their digital projects.

This year’s IAS graduate assistants, Laura Rocco and Mariah Schaefer, are both developing online research tools for area studies topics. These projects will be completed over the next several months and presented at the library in February. Laura and Mariah describe their projects below:

Laura – Balai Pustaka: a snapshot of publishing in Indonesia

Balai Pustaka (BP) is a state-run publisher in Indonesia that provides a unique understanding of print publishing, censorship, language development, and Dutch colonialism in Indonesia. Founded as the Commissie voor de Inlandsche School en Volkslectuur (the Commission for People’s Education and Reading) in 1908 and renamed Balai Pustaka in 1917, BP changed hands in WWII when the Japanese occupied Indonesia, and again in 1949 when Indonesia gained independence from the Dutch. Balai Pustaka publications range from the earliest Indonesian novels in the 1920s to the later textbook and educational materials of the post-colonial period.

An online research portal for materials related to Balai Pustaka will be published through the International and Area Studies Library using the Omeka platform. This tool will connect reference sources about BP, sources about Indonesian publishing, and historical context about the Dutch colonial and post-colonial periods with information about Balai Pustaka holdings at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The University Library holds more than 150 titles from this publisher from the post-colonial period (1951-), which can be of great value to researchers studying the political, social, and cultural histories of Indonesia.

Mariah – Research Guide to Timor-Leste (East Timor)

Timor-Leste is one of the youngest countries in the world, having officially gained independence in 2002. It was a Portuguese colony from the 1510s until Portugal withdrew in 1975. Indonesia invaded the country later that same year and stayed in power until 1999, when the majority of East Timorese voted for independence and the United Nations stepped in to help with the transition. Timor-Leste is home to 1.3 million people, who speak many local languages (Portuguese and Tetum are the official languages, and Indonesian and English are the working languages). Because the country is young, Timor-Leste is still building its national library and archives.

A “Research Guide to Timor-Leste (East Timor)” is in production and will join the other library guides by the International and Area Studies Library early in the spring semester. Not a lot of libraries have guides about Timor-Leste, so this tool aims to be really useful for researchers. The research guide will provide a variety of resources related to the country’s history, languages, cultural heritage, and government.

The time, date, and location of these presentations will be listed on the IAS calendar in early Spring, at which time these sites will also be published. Any questions can be directed to Laura Rocco or Mariah Schaefer.

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Reflecting on the Anniversary of the WWI Armistice

The International and Area Studies Library has spent the past several months posting news articles, videos, and other resources related to the WWI armistice, which celebrates its 100-year anniversary on Sunday, November 11. The research about WWI is by no means exhaustive, but much information has been gathered over the last 100 years that can shed light on this period of time. Here are some of our favorite UIUC resources we’ve found relating to the end of WWI and the armistice.

World War I in the University Archives: The University and WWI:

This library guide details UIUC Archives holdings related to WWI, including information about the University’s Student Army Training Corps (SATC) and students who served. Materials can be searched for in the Archives Database.


A Guide to Researching WWI in the Library:

This library guide provides information about and links for searching library print collections, newspaper databases, and other digital collections for WWI research.

Red Cross Work on Mutilés, At Paris (1918):

In 2015, SourceLab published a digital edition of a film showing the work of Anna Coleman Ladd, an American sculptor who made facial prosthetics for World War I veterans. SourceLab is a group of UIUC faculty and students who create digital editions of historical materials. Learn more here.

1918: The year without a Homecoming

This post describes how WWI and the rampant spread of Influenza affected the UIUC campus in 1918. This story includes several photographs and documents from the University Archives.

This list highlights just a few of the great resources at UIUC for the study of WWI! For more information about researching WWI, contact the Global Studies Librarian, Lynne Rudasill, rudasill@illinois.edu,or visit the Center for Global Studies. 

 

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