Bayou Vol. 1 by Jeremy Love

bayou-1INFORMATION

Goodreads: Bayou
Series:  Bayou #1
Source: Gift
Published: 2009

SUMMARY

The daughter of a sharecropper, Lee knows that times are tough and nothing good ever happens in the bayou.  Then Lee’s white friend Lily goes missing and Lee’s father Calvin is arrested for kidnapping.  There’s no evidence against Calvin, but Lee knows that will not save him from being lynched.  She also knows where Lily really is–she’s been taken by the bayou.  Determined to find Lily and save her father, Lee will enter a magical world full of monsters–some of them all too familiar.

Review

Set in Depression-era Mississippi, Bayou tells the story of the Jim Crow South through magical realism.  Lee Wagstaff lives by the bayou, where nothing good ever happens–indeed, she just had to recover the body of a Black boy, lynched for allegedly whistling at a white woman.  And even though she considers herself friends with the daughter of the woman who owns the land her daddy works, race relations are fraught and life precarious.  When her friend Lily goes missing, her daddy is carted off to jail and Lee understands it’s only a matter of time before he’s dead.  So what’s a girl to do but grit her teeth and head into the bayou–the bayou where she saw a  monster gobble Lily whole.

Lee’s resilience and determination are inspiring, and bring some light to what is otherwise often a very dark book.  Much like the bayou, the book looks and feels magical, but there is also a dangerous current underneath.  It can be difficult to tell who is friend and who is foe.  And the world of the bayou begins to look strikingly like the world Lee left behind.  Those with power oppress those without, and might too often makes right.  No wonder Lee is so angry, so loud.  She understands she lives in an unfair world, and she wants to do something about it.

Though the protagonist is a child, this is no children’s story.  It’s full of violence, often graphic, and Jeremy Love does not want you to look away.  The graphic novel  medium allows him to shed light on the conditions of the Jim Crow South.   Lee and her father cannot escape the violence, the brutality, the degradation.  Readers, Love suggests, should not be able to try to escape to a more comfortable place either, but rather must engage with America’s bloody past.

Krysta 645 stars

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