Sensational Saturday: BAYOU (vol. 1) by Jeremy Love [Book 24 of 2010]

Aa most of you know, I don’t usually  blog on the weekends, unless someone has died — BTW, RIP Jose Saragamo. You can read my review of his novel, BLINDNESS here.

I’m making an exception to my usual blogging rules, b/c I’m bound and determined to catch up on this promise to read a book a week, before my own book, 32 CANDLES, comes out on Tuesday. So lo and behold, I present my first “Sensational Saturday” blogumn with my thoughts on BAYOU by Jeremy Love, which is perhaps the best graphic novel I’ve ever read.

Why I Decided To Read It: I walked into the Altadena Library and this graphic novel was on display in their special “New Books” section, which I think means new-to-them, since it came out back in June 2009. I’d never heard of Jeremy Love before, and I adre giving new graphic novels a chance. So I picked it up, without reading the back cover. Most pleasant surprise of the year.

What It’s About: This one is a bit hard to fully describe, but it’s about a little girl named, Lee, living with her sharecropper father in the Jim Crow south. She has a white best friend named Lily, who disappears under magical circumstances. When Lee’s father is jailed under suspicion of having raped and killed Lily, Lee sets out to find Lily before the gathering lynch mob kills her father. Toward the beginning of her quest, she meets Bayou, the title character.

What Makes It Different: This is basically Alice in Wonderland with a way more interesting lead character and higher stakes. It somehow manages to be both historical and wildly imaginative at the same time. Also, how many magical tales have you read set in the Jim Crow south?

What I Loved: Sadly, I don’t want to tell you anything that I loved about this graphic novel, because I don’t want to ruin even one moment for you. But I will say that the only thing better than the spectacular artwork, is the superb storytelling. And the only reason this tour de force doesn’t have a Newberry, is probably because it started out as a web comic, which can be read in full and for free here. Though, I suggest getting the book for your shelf, since it’s small and way more user-friendly than other graphic novels. Also the zuda player doesn’t work on iPhone or iPad.

What I Didn’t Like: There was nothing I didn’t like about BAYOU, except that I had really strange dreams after reading it. Oh, and it’s not available on the iPad, so I find myself chastising Dark Horse Comics (of which zuda is a web subsidiary) for the second time this week. Seriously Dark Horse, you need to get on this iPad mess. UPDATE: I’m an idiot. Zuda is an imprint of DC comics. My deepest apologies to Dark Horse, who quite rightly chastised me for chastising them.

Writing Lessons Learned:

Graphic novels are imagination openers. I think I’ve talked a little about how country music and YA novels are perfect palate cleansers between album downloads and more serious book fare respectively. But I haven’t talked much about why I try to read a graphic novel about every four or five books. Other than loving them, I’ve found that they’re terrific imagination openers for fiction writers, taking you out of the rules of your genre and making you go further with your fiction than you might have if you hadn’t read graphic novels. There are a few sections in my next women’s fiction novel directly inspired by the structure of WATCHMEN. Yes, seriously. You’d be surprised by what can influence what if you keep your mind open.

High stakes.I found myself so scared for the main character. Her relationship with her father is just beautiful and the stakes are so high, you can’t help but root for her at full throttle. It reminded me that the higher the stakes, the more readers will cheer on your hero. BAYOU has the highest stakes of anything that I’ve read all year.

Write what’s missing. I have never read anything like BAYOU. It has such a specific vision, you can just tell that it came from some place deep in Love’s heart. It seems to me that he could have easily taken the road more travelled, directing his talents toward a story that would be easier for comics fans to swallow. But he saw this book was missing from the world and her wrote it. Brilliant. Writers take note: What’s missing from your bookshelf? Think about writing that book.

To Whom Would I Recommend This Book: Black History Month Programs, People Who Loved ALICE IN WONDERLAND, Tim Burton (seriously, this needs to be adapted to film), People Who Appreciate Imagination, Mike DiMartino, Gudrun Cram-Drach, Tara Armov, Dolen Perkins-Valdez, Newberry Panelists, Amy Robinson, Tamara Larsen, African-American History Professors, Anyone Who Thinks They Hate Comics.

Click on the cover pic to buy the book!