“A People’s History of American Empire: A Graphic Adaptation” by Howard Zinn, Mike Konopacki and Paul Buhle (Metropolitan Books, 2008)

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Activist, author, and teacher Howard Zinn is probably best known for the consistently bestselling A People’s History of the United States, with the help of writer Mike Konopacki and artist Paul Buhle, he now presents A People’s History of American Empire: A Graphic Adaptation.  With the popularity of books like Persepolis, 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation, and Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea, the genre of journalism through graphic illustration is a growing one, and now has a solid member with Howard Zinn’s book.

A People’s History of American Empire begins at the beginning with the growing American colonies and subjugation of minorities on the North American continent.  The book does not hold back in putting blame on the US government, as we pass through the civil war, and the World Wars, spending time in revealing the apparent need of the government to be in charge of everything.  It becomes obvious that something strange has been going on for over a century, where the American government seems obsessed with controlling the governments and peoples of developing countries in Central and South America.  The term “empire” is key for the book as it extols on America’s need to be dictating the actions of other countries.  As we reach the 1960s, the authors go into detail about the transference of this “American Empire” from the Americas to the Middle East, when oil became such a necessary natural resource.  The book does an excellent job in showing just who it is that suffers most: the poor, whichever country they may be in.  Many die and A People’s History shows that this is considered a necessary sacrifice, for ultimately it’s not Americans dying.

A People’s History of Empire is a sobering look at American history through the actions of its government, its presidents, and its politicians.  The artwork aids the writing, in showing an emotion and character of the people and events, making a stronger impression on the reader.  It reveals a true history rarely seen or discussed in history books that makes the reader wonder at times why so many other countries revere the United States as the land of the free, with the amount of blood that has been spilled in its past over personal gain.

Originally written on July 26th, 2008 ©Alex C. Telander.

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