The high desert

James Spooner

Book - 2022

"Scene: Apple Valley, California, in the late eighties, a thirsty, miserable desert. Teenage James Spooner hates that he and his mom are back in town after years away. The one silver lining--new school, new you, right? But the few Black kids at school seem to be gangbanging, and the other kids fall on a spectrum of micro-aggressors to future Neo-Nazis. Mixed race, acutely aware of his Blackness, James doesn't know where he fits until he meets Ty, a young Black punk who introduces him t...o the school outsiders--skaters, unhappy young rebels, caught up in the punk groundswell sweeping the country. A haircut, a few Sex Pistols, Misfits and Black Flag records later: suddenly, James has friends, romantic prospects, and knows the difference between a bass and a guitar. But this desolate landscape hides brutal, building undercurrents: a classmate overdoses, a friend must prove himself to his white supremacist brother and the local Aryan brotherhood through a show of violence. Everything and everyone are set to collide at one of the year's biggest shows in town... Weaving in the Black roots of punk rock and a vivid interlude in the thriving eighties DIY scene in New York's East Village, this is the memoir of a budding punk, artist, and activist"--Dust jacket flap.

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2nd Floor New Shelf BIOGRAPHY/Spooner, James (NEW SHELF) Due Oct 21, 2022
Review by Booklist Reviews

In his deeply moving and heartfelt coming-of-age graphic memoir, Afro-punk artist Spooner does an exceptional job at capturing his complicated and challenging teenage years growing up in Apple Valley, CA, during the late 1980s. Fans of this subgenre will find some familiar themes as Spooner details the struggles he faced fitting in, finding love, dealing with his parent's divorce, and figuring out his identity. But despite those familiarities, this is more extraordinary and unique; Spooner's thoughtful consideration regarding the role that his race and racism had in shaping his life is noteworthy, and his reflection on his exploration with and embracing of the punk rock culture as a Black teen is something that has rarely been seen in coming-of-age graphic novels. This is a must-read for those interested in reading texts that focus on the complexity of race and race relations in the U.S. Supported by expressive, well-drawn art and a commitment to sharing details about the Black roots of punk rock, this is a noteworthy coming-of-age graphic novel that many will find eye-opening and appealing. Copyright 2022 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Spooner, the filmmaker behind the Afro-Punk documentary and festivals, debuts with a graphic memoir as abrasive and revelatory as his chosen music. Against a setting of the 1990s-era desolate desert landscape of Apple Valley, Calif., Spooner replays key notes of his adolescence. His predominantly poor and white hometown simmers with hostility: bikers throw insults and skinheads infiltrate the scene, targeting the multiracial friendship circle with whom he forges his punk identity and sound. But he's empowered by learning that "Rock 'n' roll is a Black American Legacy. Punk rock is Black music." He's also desperate for a girlfriend—the fact that his crushes are always already taken gets hilariously drawn, with the word boyfriend literally falling from the top of the page and demolishing him. He's forthright about the fraught relationship with his devoted but sometimes clueless white mother, his absent Black father (a St. Lucian former champion bodybuilder aka "Mr. America to everyone but your son"), as well as realizing his own light-skinned privilege in relation to other Black friends. Lyrics from influential songs (such as "White Minority" by Black Flag) spring from panels in dynamic word balloons, punctuating emotional scenes; the story culminates in dual tragedies and Spooner's escape from the dust. The realistic, digitally drawn art is loose-lined, matching the urgency of the soundtrack. Much like Ghost World, this grabbing, angsty coming-of-age tale offers a sidewalk view of a creative subculture. It's also a poignant ode to the power of music to fill voids left by family and circumstance, with provocations thrumming on race and identity that sound out like a smashed guitar. Agent: PJ Mark, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (May) Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A formative coming-of-age graphic memoir by the creator of Afro-punk: a young man’s immersive reckoning with identity, racism, clumsy teen love and belonging in an isolated California desert, and a search for salvation and community through punk.Apple Valley, California, in the late eighties, a thirsty, miserable desert.Teenage James Spooner hates that he and his mom are back in town after years away. The one silver lining—new school, new you, right? But the few Black kids at school seem to be gangbanging, and the other kids fall on a spectrum of micro-aggressors to future Neo-Nazis. Mixed race, acutely aware of his Blackness, James doesn't know where he fits until he meets Ty, a young Black punk who introduces him to the school outsiders—skaters, unhappy young rebels, caught up in the punk groundswell sweeping the country.A haircut, a few Sex Pistols, Misfits and Black Flag records later: suddenly, James has friends, romantic prospects, and knows the difference between a bass and a guitar. But this desolate landscape hides brutal, building undercurrents: a classmate overdoses, a friend must prove himself to his white supremacist brother and the local Aryan brotherhood through a show of violence. Everything and everyone are set to collide at one of the year's biggest shows in town...Weaving in the Black roots of punk rock and a vivid interlude in the thriving eighties DIY scene in New York's East Village, this is the memoir of a budding punk, artist, and activist.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A formative coming-of-age graphic memoir by the creator of Afro-punk: a young man’s immersive reckoning with identity, racism, clumsy teen love and belonging in an isolated California desert, and a search for salvation and community through punk.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

A formative coming-of-age graphic memoir by the creator of Afro-punk: a young man’s immersive reckoning with identity, racism, clumsy teen love and belonging in an isolated California desert, and a search for salvation and community through punk. Apple Valley, California, in the late eighties, a thirsty, miserable desert. Teenage James Spooner hates that he and his mom are back in town after years away. The one silver lining—new school, new you, right? But the few Black kids at school seem to be gangbanging, and the other kids fall on a spectrum of micro-aggressors to future Neo-Nazis. Mixed race, acutely aware of his Blackness, James doesn't know where he fits until he meets Ty, a young Black punk who introduces him to the school outsiders—skaters, unhappy young rebels, caught up in the punk groundswell sweeping the country. A haircut, a few Sex Pistols, Misfits and Black Flag records later: suddenly, James has friends, romantic prospects, and knows the difference between a bass and a guitar. But this desolate landscape hides brutal, building undercurrents: a classmate overdoses, a friend must prove himself to his white supremacist brother and the local Aryan brotherhood through a show of violence. Everything and everyone are set to collide at one of the year's biggest shows in town... Weaving in the Black roots of punk rock and a vivid interlude in the thriving eighties DIY and punk scene in New York's East Village, this is the memoir of a budding punk, artist, and activist.