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  • Writer's pictureDani Kachorsky

Making and assessing comics in the classroom...

The Unofficial Coronavirus Special: We apologize for this taking so many months to post. The pandemic has really caused our production team to be overloaded with work and this labor of love has had to take a back seat for awhile. We hope you enjoy it and we look forward to getting our next episode out in a more timely manner.

Note: The following transcript has been edited for coherence. Excessive "ums", unnecessary "likes”, and the like have been removed for your convenience. Fragmented sentences and missing words have been edited to make the podcast transcript more readable.

[Opening Music]

Jason DeHart - @JasonDDeHart1

Appalachian State University


You really get to see thinking, and reading's a pretty invisible process.

Laura Jiménez

You're doing all this to open up space, not to close it in to align with your thinking.


Incorporating comics or any instructional routine, I think you have to first say there is a chance that this could go horribly, horribly wrong.

Ashley Dallacqua

I don't want it to feel risky to teachers, but it is.


Dani Kachorsky

Hi, everyone, and welcome to Reading in the Gutter, a podcast that bridges the gap between comics and education. I'm Dani Kachorsky.


I'm Ashley Dallacqua.


I'm Laura Jiménez.


Today, we are here with Jason DeHart, who is a former middle school teacher. He taught middle school for eight years. Now, he is an Assistant Professor at Appalachian State, where he teaches reading and literacy, and makes and continues to read comics. Welcome to the podcast, Jason.


Thank you so much. Glad to be here.


Today, we are speaking with Jason about two topics that are near and dear to his heart. We're talking about making comics with kids and how you would do that in K-12 or in college settings. Then, once they'd made comics, how do you go about evaluating these things?

Before we really launch into that, Jason, I'm hoping maybe you can just share a little bit with us about your personal journey to becoming someone who is interested in comics and researching comics and having these things in your classroom space.


Absolutely. Of course, comics all started when I was a kid, but fast forwarding from there, from being a reader of comics as a young child...When I first started teaching, I spent maybe my first year really figuring out what teaching was all about, finishing my Master's, trying to get my feet on the ground. Then, by the end of my second year, I found that I have these loves, I have these affinities that come out. Comic books happens to be one of those.

The end of the second year of teaching, I thought, "I really want to make my class interesting." It was that test prep time that many educators find themselves in. I thought, "How do I do that?" I started thinking about how my students could show learning in comics, just simple little comics that they could make. From there, it's really never stopped. Any time that I have a chance to include comic book reading and comic book making in my teaching, I really try to do that, at the college level, at the middle school level, wherever I can.

At the time, I didn't know that there was scholarship around comic books and graphic novels. I was just a teacher out there, trying to figure out what was going on and thinking, "Ah, I love these things. How can I engage my students?" Of course, their response led me to the conclusion that it was something that I should continue doing.

Years later, I would pick up more scholarship around comics, and it really became...both film and comics became something that I was interested in researching. Again, I think it comes back to the "me" search of research. It was something that I loved and so it made its way into my teaching and the things that I want to spend my time writing about.


It's interesting, Jason. You said you started out as a comics reader. That's not necessarily the norm anymore. In other words, I came into comics research as a non-comics reader and I think that some of what I actually bring to the field is a novice's view of what this stuff looks like.

I wonder, also, if that's why you went into making because that's something I won't even go anywhere near. That's so far outside my comfort or... Is there another word for comfort zone? That's really like--that seems to me like trying to exist on Mars. It's just my blood vessels will explode. It's just not going to happen, right?

I wonder, how did you get to the making part instead of just the reading part. I shouldn't say just, instead of the reading part.


Yeah, absolutely. That's another thing I think I led directly from. In my experience with comics as a young person, I immediately wanted to start making comics and notebooks. I've read Margaret Atwood's work, Angel Catbird, where she also talks about making comics and notebooks and moving from reader to maker at an early age. I feel like that legitimizes that practice for me, like if she did it and she's this wonderful author, then maybe I can do that, too.

It continues to be something that, honestly, stretches me. I don't see myself as someone who is a professional comic book maker. I'm just a person who really likes comics, so I encourage stick figures. I encourage simple illustrations. I would occasionally have the student who said, "I don't really want to draw. I don't really want to do this. Can I just write a story?" I embrace that, too.

Right now, in the midst of Coronavirus going on, our university clinic is taking lessons online. Earlier today, I presented to about 70 people in a Zoom session, which continues to be interesting, with a document camera, just doing some simple illustrations with young kids. I never expected to be doing that, but I think because I love it and I'm willing to sketch and try things out, I think that I find myself doing that.

There are times that I do feel like my blood vessels might explode, but I think my love for it just continues driving forward. We'll see what happens. I may be out there with Doctor Manhattan at some point, checking stuff out on Mars, but maybe not.


So you mentioned earlier that when you first started bringing the making of comics into your middle school class, that you were looking for ways that it connected to content or things that they could show, like a way to express their learning, which I'm assuming was somehow related to the standards or whatnot. What were some of the first things you started having them represent through comics and then did you, and when did you, if you did, start branching away from using comics just to prove the content learning?


Yeah, so initially, it was that thing of I have all of these standards. I think I had something like 84 that I needed to “cover”, whatever that means. I still don't know what that means. Initially, elements of plot was a pretty easy get. Characterization was a pretty easy get. I felt like those were things that students could express visually with words and pictures.

In terms of when I started reaching out and doing more work with comics in different ways, I think it was inspired by the fact that most kids seem to enjoy it. Most kids would really be engaged in the process. Sometimes we would do full comics out on the floor on large sheets of paper, and then, sometimes students would be working in groups with folded paper, working out their comics.

I found that, because I liked it, my students liked it, and it was something that seemed to be engaging and to work. I found that I used comics in different ways. We might read something, and I first started doing illustrations on the board, drawing out my own pictures of what I thought the scene might look like as we were reading something. Then, I thought, "Well, I'm doing all of this. Maybe I should actually have students do some drawing while we're reading, too." It just became an additional layer.

I think we read A Wrinkle in Time before the graphic novel version existed and I remember having students draw out their favorite scenes. It just became something cool and something to notice that students were interested in and they would take up and do. Then, you really get to see thinking. Reading's a pretty invisible process, but when you have students draw things out and visualize, you can see a little bit more of their thinking in the way they're really seeing the stories and the passages and the ideas in their heads.


I’m also curious about how, when you're positioning yourself as the comic's artist, how do you start? What's your process like? It sounds like, too, I heard you saying starting with some content that already exists and then making it visual. And then, do you start with your own content and then how do you translate that into what you ask your students to do as far as starting with words, starting with pictures, starting with a combination, pairing them up as writers and artists?


Yeah, so I always start out with great humility because I can do sketches and I can do drawings of some degree but there's so many people out there that just do amazing things with art. That's usually the first thing I tell people, is I'm just a person who likes comics. I'm not an official artist. People don't pay me to do this. In fact, they might pay me to stop if they had the chance.

Then from there, I try to--as one would do with any writing product--I try to show mentor texts. And that's a vulnerable process to bring in my own work and say, "Hey, look at this" because you could always have a critic in the crowd that doesn't exactly like it or that can do it better. Like drawing hands... I'm going to be honest. Drawing hands is the worst for me, just trying to figure out how to get all the little parts in place, but I continue to work at it. That's a message that I try to send, too.

If I'm going through a standard comics process, I try to start with an introduction, once we've looked at my mentor text, of thinking through what's something I want to make sure I include in this comic? Is it a character? Is it part of a story that I want to show? Then, I like to provide a menu. When I demo a comics activity with classes, I'll brainstorm with them maybe 10 or 20 character names, maybe 10 or 20 super powers. Characters often have vehicles, so I brainstorm that.

Then, I also try to send a message that comics are not just about super heroes, so if you wanted to draw a comic book story of your life, that would also be completely fine and completely cool. I do create the standard that stick figures are acceptable. I think Lynda Barry sends the message that everybody's art is a little bit different and I equate that to finding your voice. Like in singing or like in writing or anything else, your art, I think, really represents a little bit of your perspective, who you are. I think bringing your own style to it is something that I like to encourage. I learn a lot about kids and a lot about people as a result of the process.


You mentioned using your own work as mentor text, and I, again, think that is incredibly brave of you because, as you said, you're not a professional. This is not what you do. This is a hobby. This is something that you enjoy, so leaving yourself vulnerable like that has got to be refreshing for students to see. It's got to be something that they're like, "Wow, this is a great model to say, 'Okay, I'm not the best. This is a work in progress. This is a draft. This is all that.'" That's really great.

What are some artists, illustrators, books, that you count on as mentor texts in this work, and I have a follow up question and the follow up is actually a little tangent:

One of the things you talked about is you want them to show learning because reading, like you said, is this internalized hidden black box process. How do you elicit and interpret, how do you elicit from them that you want to see this learning? And then, how do you do that teacher part of interpreting what they give us as illustrative of their learning? Those are two very different questions and you can take either one in any order.


Cool. Yeah, so I'm always reading and I'm always trying to add to my bookshelves. One of the places that I go first, because it was formative of me was the Art Deco Bruce Timm animated style of the 1990's Batman series, the animated series, because immediately, that show was turned into comics. I think that was the only comic series that, as a young person, I subscribed to. I like to show those examples and then it's always fun to listen to students talk about how old that show is and how, "Oh, that's the classic version." Yes, thank you. Yes, I know.

That's a place that I go just because, again, it's something that's an affinity for me, but then, I like to bring in a lot of different examples. I'm teaching, co-teaching actually, an assessment course in literacy this semester and we've been looking at Dog Man as one example. We've been looking at Lorena Alvarez's work with Nightlights as another example of the different voice that you can bring to the image. I've been using Noelle Stevenson's Nimona as an example. I continue to build these very diverse examples of a wide variety of art styles. I like to put them on the screen side by side just to show students that I can make this look like I want it to look. Diary of the Wimpy Kid is a very different aesthetic than, say, Lucy Knisley or somebody like that. Your follow up question, please remind me of what that was.


My tangential follow up, if you're going to be generous with me, is you mentioned using this to show their learning, using comics and visual art to show their learning and you highlighted the fact that reading happens in this black box, this mysterious place in our brain. How do you do the work of evaluating and interpreting?


Thank you so much. My brain traveled to other places as I was talking.

First, I think that, when I ask students to make a comic, it usually comes after some work. We've either just been introduced to comics, which I've gotten to do as a guest speaker a few times, or maybe we've just completed... In my public education career, we completed most of the year of teaching or maybe we just read something and I'm saying, "Well, what do you think about that? What do you notice about that?" That's my gentle invitation, I think, to say, "Oh, can you use some words and pictures to show me where you're thinking is about this? What did you learn? What did you notice?"

If I'm teaching teachers, one of the questions that I like to say is something like, "Well, can you show me what you believe about your classroom teaching somehow through this comic? Can you show me something that you believe about assessment--such a fun word, assessment--through this comic book experience?" Then from there, I think we always have to talk about it.

I think we learn so much more when we ask students of any age, be it five or 105, to talk to us about what were the creative decisions you made? You can label that part of the comic for me but why don't you tell me where you're thinking is and talk to me about that a little bit. I think it's a great way to learn about where students are and it gives, I'll use the terms logogens and imagens, to give students tools to share their thinking and maybe a way that's a little more inviting than some other traditional ways we find in school. I think comic books have that reputation of being something that exists a little outside of the typical school experience and I like to capitalize on that and say, "Okay, let's use them to move this work in new directions, consider new things."


That was really interesting that you said that we always have to get back to asking them and talking to them about it because I think that one of the things that we tend to do, especially in education, is look for those quick fix tools, like hey, comics are the shiny and cool thing. It's not part of our usual classroom practice. We bring it in and it's going to solve all these problems. I think Laura has called it the magic bullet before. Just having it in the classroom isn't necessarily going to make anything magical happen.

I think your point about having conversations with readers and creators is the key and interesting point there. What sorts of things, when you are having those conversations, do you often find coming to light from that interaction of their art and their active creating and the conversation?


Usually, I'm pretty impressed. That’s what I've found. Just to see the skills that people bring to what they can do. Sometimes it is just a stick figure and that's okay, or a series of stick figures. When I'm talking with students, I'm usually pretty impressed that the same concepts that seem to be so illusive when they're in a multiple choice setup following a passage that often lacks relevancy, it can show up in something that they've just spent time creating.

I'm always curious about the different things that students add. We make that menu of choices and I talk about character names and different things that students can bring in, but I love it when students travel in their own direction and I can see some of their invention coming into the comics that they're making. That's a pretty telling experience, too.


That also makes me think--Dani's question and what you were talking about--talking with students about their work, is the social nature of comics reading and comics creating. I wonder if you could talk a little bit more about ways in which you see students and teachers interacting as you're taking up this work?


Yeah, absolutely. Isn't it an amazing thing that nobody had to tell me, as a kid, once I'd read a comic book, that I should go make my own comic book and try that out. It wasn't on any standardized curriculum at the time or anything like that. Those moves are pretty natural, I think. It's a pretty cool thing.

What I notice as I incorporate things that I'm interested in like comic books into the classroom, is there's this amazing interest that evolves for some, not everybody, but that was part of my inspiration for continuing down that path. If I put a comic book or graphic novel on my classroom bookshelf, I was always amazed that it was the book that was missing first because somebody had it and they didn't want to bring it back.

There's something about the unique nature of the graphic novel that is appealing, that maybe has some support for readers but also has that engagement with visuals and that marriage of words and text. Initially, when I started to talk about comics, I had this happen with the assessment course that I'm involved with right now, initially there's a little bit of hesitation and it's like, "Oh, it's just this one thing."

Then, I love to break the one story of comics by bringing in this wide range of examples and showing people, "Oh, when you dig into this, there really are amazing stories and autobiographical stories and important stories that are told. It's not just about super heroes and it's not just about the thing maybe you read in between your serious reading. Comic books are serious reading, too."

I love to see people change their thinking and start to open up a little bit to the medium. Not everybody does, I don't think. Not everybody is completely sold, but I love the converts that I see when I start to talk about it.


Right, exactly like Dani said, I do, I talk about the idea that comics are not going to be the magic bullet or the silver bullet. Not everybody, and I think it's important. As you pointed out, it's important that some of your students, some of the students in the K-12 classroom, are not going to find this reading easier or natural. It's not going to be something they're particularly engaged with. It's not going to hit everyone.

I think that's something that we have to always keep in mind that we're looking for a wider array of complex reading. We're not looking for a substitute or we're not looking to reify or codify or reimagine a cannon, but the work you're doing is blowing the cannon up.

I'm very violent today. I think it probably has something to do with being in my house with my teenagers for a very long period of time.

This idea of a wide array of choices, like you said, you give them a menu. You're doing all of this to open up space, not to close it in to align with your thinking, which is terrific. That's not really a question. It's just a comment I thought you should get so if you wanted to, I don't know. That was it. That was just what I wanted to say right there. Sorry, Dani.


Well, I'll take compliments anytime. I, too, have that sense of violence there, just to connect with you on that. I think I've been looking at social media a little bit too much and I need to put some boundaries around that.

I just thought of this experience of having students sometimes come in with that idea that, "Oh, comics are so simple" and then I love to give them... My Favorite Thing is Monsters or Stuck Rubber Baby and just say, "Sit with this for a few minutes." I've had students respond to me with, "This is giving me a headache. Where do I even look on this page?"

Yeah, it's all about expanding what students are reading, what they're willing to pick up. I confess very early in my teaching career, if a student wanted to change up an option or add something, I was always, at first, a little hesitant because I wasn't sure what was going to happen and then I discovered that it was usually pretty beautiful. The longer I taught, the more I taught, and continue to teach, and I think like, "Okay, if you want to change this assignment up, if you want to bring in a different text or experience, I'm open to it." We're continuing to learn through new text all the time. Like Zoom, I have learned so much about Zoom in the past week or two so definitely, I'm an advocate of opening up all kinds of texts for students. And thank you for the compliment.


I was thinking about what you were saying about having to reframe how you were thinking about yourself as a teacher, too, as far as how comfortable you were with student assignments and their adaptations. I wonder if you would speak a little bit more to the riskiness of the work. I don't know if I like that word because I don't want it to feel risky to teachers, but it is, right? To a lot of people, it just is. What do you say to teachers who are like, "I don't think I can do that" or "I don't have the background knowledge to do that" or "I need everything to be as planned when it comes to this kind of work?"


Yeah, I will say, you know how at the end of the first Avengers movie, Mark Ruffalo was like, "I'm always angry" and then he just turns all full Hulk. I think I'm always a little uncomfortable, so I may just be used to it by now. I don't know.

Actually, incorporating comics or any instructional routine, I think you have to first say there is a chance that this could go horribly, horribly wrong, and that's okay. That's cool and that's part of the work and that's part of the process. I didn't just have that happen with comics. I had that happen with pretty standardized lesson routines of coming in one day and it works really well and the next day, you have to change it up. That's why I think the key of teaching anything is flexibility. You have to be Mr. Fantastic Flexible or Mrs. Fantastic Flexible and get out there and try new things.

For me, I would say that it was a way of bringing in things that I loved but also a way of making sure that I was staving off any kind of boredom. I would say if you feel like you've done this 11 times and you want to try something new, absolutely bring in comics and try it out. If you're not comfortable drawing, stick figures are acceptable for teachers, too. Bring in examples of different kinds of work.

One of the things we're trying to do with the Zoom sessions right now with the Reading Clinic at Appalachian State is bringing in comic book artists, actual real comic book artists to show their work and that's going to be much different than my sketch pad that I keep on my night table. There, again, if you're not comfortable, it's an awesome opportunity for collaboration. I can see this as the marriage of a lot of concepts with art. Reach out to people that are there to support and if you do try it out and it doesn't work, I think that we have to give ourselves permission, as teachers, to sometimes try out new things and then change them.

There's never a lesson that I do, there's never a comic that I do, that's completely perfect the first time. It'll never be perfect and when I make comics, that's why I draw them in pencil first. It's my drafting pencil and then I can go back with ink pen later and then I can go back with Sharpie when I'm ready to publish. I can do the same think with teaching. I'm going to try it out in pencil. We might try it as a short activity and then if that works, if the students respond well, then I can go back and I can make this more the cornerstone of what I want to do and ink it in a little bit better, recognizing that it might work this year and then next year, I have to do a little more drafting.


Thinking about that collaborative nature, I think Ashley mentioned it earlier, or maybe it was Laura, but the comics are made by lots of people, professional comics. You mentioned you use your drafting pencil and you'll go over it with pen and then the Sharpie. In comics, there's the script writer, there's the letterer, there's the colorist, there's the artist. There’s all these people. It's not just, or very rarely, it comes from one individual. Sometimes with graphic novels, you'll have somebody who is so multi-talented that they make all of us feel horrible about ourselves, but it's not the typical process, right? It's not the typical practice in comics.

Do you ever talk to the kids that you work with about how one of the great things about comics is that a bunch of us can work on this together and we can all use our own talent, so if one of is isn't a great drawer but our partner is, maybe I can work on the script while the other person draws something that is more complex than a stick figure?


Yeah, absolutely. I think, as a group project, I've used comics that way, too, just saying one person can be the letterer, if that's what you want to do or you can share that work. One person can do the illustrations or maybe switch up the illustrations and share those out. I think that's actually a much better way to think about work in collaboration than having jobs that really don't amount to much like time keeper or leader or things like that.

I like to point that out with comic books. I think of, again, the Batman Adventures from when I was a kid. So many artists and so many writers bring their talents to work like that and you can see them all listed on the first part of the book. I always show that out there a little bit, too. Especially, the produced comics, the way that people do, I think that you have to participate and collaborate. Major publishing companies share these books what, now twice a month? A lot of them do.

I also have great respect for the people of the world that take months, up to a year or more of their life, and do all the work themselves. I like to tip my hat to those people, too, when I talk about comics. Yeah, I think that has really natural implications for collaborative learning, group learning and it seems almost embedded into the practice itself.

When I'm working with college students, especially as a guest speaker, I don't always have the time to break it up that way, so we do quick sketches and quick comics, but when I'm looking at something that's going to be maybe something we'll take a little more time with and really expand, I think that's a really good fit, absolutely.


All right, so Jason, at the top of the episode, we talked about how we're going to talk a little bit about not just making comics but also when kids make comics, how do we assess these things or evaluate these things. I'm wondering. You've had an evolution. You've been doing this for a while. How were you evaluating this from the get-go and how has that changed over the past however many years?


Yeah, so initially, I'm sure I wasn't exactly sure what I was looking at with everything coming together in comics and graphic novels. I think at first, I was looking for something that was slightly maybe entertaining, a little engaging, and I just wanted to try it out and see. Initially, it was very standards based. We're going to look for these three or four things as a way of making sure the students understand this.

I talked a little bit about how dialogue is a natural next step. Where I'm at now and where I continue to grow is my understanding of assessment, it's really just a process of noticing and noticing what's going on. I think comics give us a really layered way to notice a variety of things in words and pictures and layouts, but then also those conversations we can have with students.

Actually, the assessment continues beyond just turning the paper in and it becomes a process of really thinking through like, "Okay, tell me about your thinking on this," and then I learn a lot about you, as a student and as a thinker and creator, as a result. I would say that I've moved from being more of a checkpoint, "You've got it, great, move on" assessor with comics in the classroom to more invitational. I continue to grow more curious and interested in just what I can notice.


Excellent. Thank you. I really like that idea because it doesn't feel so punitive. There's something about grading and assessment that always feels like a punishment to me. I realize that our K-12 teachers are in a context where, typically, they have to assign grades.

We're having a conversation right now with the university about how we're going to do that with Coronavirus stuff going on and whether or not these are actually valuable. It's interesting seeing people come out of the woodwork on both sides of the argument.

It's just been really on my mind with this kind of work. Can we assign a letter grade to something that we have... Art is so opinion and aesthetic and we all react differently to it, so I don't know that it's the kind of thing that lends itself really well to like, "You get an A, Johnny." Thanks. I appreciate your thoughts on that.

Building off that, though, and moving into the end of our episode, we always like to end with recommendations for teachers who want to try to go do this. Then, we'll finalize with book recommendations of things that we're reading. Before we launch into book recs for everybody, do you want to tell teachers what you think would be a good place to start, if they wanted to give this a try?


Absolutely. Yeah, I think I started with reading. I think just starting to incorporate some of these texts into the classroom and making them available on the classroom shelf is an awesome place to begin. If you're not comfortable jumping in and sharing comics and making comics, make them available and then see what happens.

My hunch would be that you're going to have some students that either already make comics or maybe they're going to make comics as a result of you making those texts available. Hey, you've got some experts in the room. Why not position the students as expert. Let them show their work and then go from there?

The other thing I would say, which I think we're all just learning right now amidst trying out different things educationally, is keep it simple. Try something simple. Try something like an opening sketch or illustration or have students visualize. Maybe do something that's just a couple of panels, if you want to try to draw something out with stick figures, and then you can build from there. I would say always keep it simple.

Then finally, Teachers & Writers Magazine has a little lesson plan that I wrote that you're welcome to check out. I always say if it's a lesson plan or strategy, you should change it up to make it fit. I think it's a three-day lesson plan that I would be glad to share that as an additional resource just to have something to come back to that's on paper to say like, "Okay, this is a concrete example of how this might look over a three-day instructional stretch."


All right. Thanks. I think that will be very helpful and we will definitely link that lesson plan and the other article that you shared with us that's on a blog space, I think, to our website so that people can access it.


Beyond Refrigerators


All right, so we are coming to the end of our Coronavirus Special--unintentional Coronavirus Special. We're going to end with our section called Beyond Refrigerators. Today, we are going to be recommending the comics that we are reading right now that have Asian artists and authors, per Laura's request. Laura, why don't you start us off, then.


I requested that we focus on Asian artists and authors because of the xenophobic and racist trash, fiery trash stuff that's happening in America right now around a virus that has no racial identity. I really wanted to put out some positive ideas here.

I would revisit anything Jen Wang writes ever. I think if Jen Wang decides to illustrate a phone book or anything else along those lines, I would happily buy it.

I also went back and read The Best We Could Do because I think it's just a beautiful book by a Thi Bui, and I think it's a way to look at the ways Asian immigrants experience America. It plays with time and space so beautifully, I think.

I'm just into reading They Called Us Enemy, which I think you turned me on to. I think Dani recommended that. So far, I've cried twice. I'm probably halfway through. I don't know if that has to do with where I am in the world or the book, or both, but it is gorgeous and it is really... It's by George Takei and it introduces us to his experience being in a forced relocation camp during World War II. I think it is a gorgeous and sobering look at our U.S. history.


I'll share next because Laura stole both of my thunders. I was also going to talk about Takei's They Called Us Enemy because I feel like history is repeating itself again. We aren't at a place with internment camps at this point, but I feel like every so many years, there's a new group of people who's in a hot seat because of whatever perceived differences there are out there in the world and now with the virus, it's turned onto Asian Americans and Chinese Americans. It's very frustrating, and it's a beautiful book. It's heartfelt and it's heartbreaking and there's a lot of tears. I think you would cry even if it wasn't all the things that are going on right now.

The other one I was going to point out was superheroes, linking back to some of Jason's loves here. I really appreciate Yang's New Superman, which takes place, is Superman in China. They had tried out, was it Superman Red Sun back in the day? Now there's a whole bunch of these re-envisionments of Superman. This is the one that I've enjoyed the most, but I think that might just have something to do with Yang in general. I just love his artistic style and the way that he writes his stories, so those would be mine.


I have some recommendations that have come before as well, on Gene Yang's Boxers and Saints. It's something that really takes up the Boxer Rebellion in China but in a way that looks at multiple perspectives and this idea of clashing and crashing cultures and Western ideologies about religion. I think it can also help, when I've had students read it. I've had different groups read each book first and think about if you come at it from this perspective versus more of a Western or more of a Eastern perspective, does it influence how the other side, and just helping us to figure out what biases we bring to reading about these really important and difficult cultural stances that folks grow up with and when and how we can push back at those. That's something, as a book to revisit. It's been out for awhile, so yeah.


I'll bring up the end of the recommendations there, I guess, but also note that I love Gene Yang's work. Superman Smashes the Clan is just an amazing book series and wonderful art. I will also mention that he has just released Dragon Hoops and I'm just a couple of pages into Dragon Hoops. I'm not a sports fan, but I appreciate when people take on different topics in graphic novel form and have explored them culturally. What's interesting about Dragon Hoops is Gene Yang, from what I've read so far, starts with his teacher identity and thinking about his role as a teacher and then explores what sports culture was like and continues to be like for him.

I will also mention Jason Shiga and the book, Meanwhile. I love it when graphic novels do interesting and different things and Meanwhile is like a choose your own adventure. It's one that's just for fun, but it has multiple tabs and the pages are really glossy and almost plastic-y. You can make choices throughout the book to find the different place that you want to go in the story.

Then finally, to tell you a book that's on my reading list that's not out yet, but a nice follow up to They Called Us Enemy and some of the books that we've talked about so far, is a book called Displacement by Kiku Hughes, which also explores in graphic novel format the experience of the Japanese Internment Camp. It comes out in August but the art, from what I've seen, looks really beautiful. I'm always thinking about what are my next reads. I buy way too many books, but that's one to just continue the conversation and continue our thinking through this representation. That's the next one on the list that, to me, is going to be a go-getter.

[Closing Music]


All right, well, that brings us to the end of our episode today. I'm not even sure what episode we're on anymore, but thanks, everybody for listening. We were really excited to have you here. We hope everyone's staying happy and healthy in these very strange and crazy times.

For more information about Reading in the Gutter and resources related to comics and education, visit our website or follow us on Twitter @RITGPodcast.

Special thanks to Dr. Jason DeHart for his contributions to this episode. For information about or to contact our guests and contributors, please visit the episode transcript on our website.

Reading in the Gutter is a podcast that is produced in a personal capacity. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed are solely those of the individuals involved and do not represent those of their affiliated institutions.

Post-production for this podcast is provided by Dan Perrine. Our intro and outro music is provided by the ALIBI Music Library and licensed through



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