What Unites Us: The Graphic Novel

First Second. (World Citizen Comics). Mar. 2021. 288p. Tr $28.99. ISBN 9781250239945.
Gr 9 Up–This graphic novel adaptation of Rather’s collection of essays analyzes the United States’ current political climate through the broad lens of the news anchor’s career. Divided into ideas such as courage, empathy, and community, the work explores how these concepts were relevant to building the American essence. Dressed in a long trench coat, Rather pops up on each page, weaving in and out of the historical narrative and offering commentary on the country’s many successes and failures, from Black Americans’ fight for voting rights in the 1960s to the press’s failure to criticize the decision to pursue war in Iraq in 2001. Rather praises a democracy’s need for open access to ideas and hails libraries and journalism as the cornerstone of a healthy democracy. He notes that reading results in education and that a free press encourages the exchange of ideas that break down harmful biases and dogmas. The adaptation is clunky at times, and panels are packed with text. While Rather’s tone sways back and forth between didactic and endearing, his desire to see a fractured nation united rings true. Foley’s pared-down line art allows the narrative to take center stage, and a palette of red, white, and blue highlights Rather’s hopeful idealism. As a white male, Rather acknowledges his own learning and unlearning over the span of his career, and encourages Americans to move forward toward a more inclusive society.
VERDICT Rather’s firsthand accounts of moments like Watergate and the civil rights movement will appeal to readers interested in a nuanced look at recent U.S. history.

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