by Paul Buhle
Pyle, Kevin C.: Take What You Can Carry, Henry Holt and Co. BYR Paperbacks; First Edition, March 13, 2012, unpaged (c.150pp), $12.99, ISBN-13: 978-0805082869
(Swans - May 7, 2012) Kevin Pyle is an outstanding comic artist, whose earlier work, Blindspot, brilliantly (and for a young adult audience), without a moment of didacticism, traced the spontaneous war games of growing boys into a self-realization of their destructiveness. Here, he offers new light on an almost-forgotten issue (except for the survivors and their descendents), the relocation of more than a hundred thousand Japanese-Americans during the Second World War.
The subject immediately recalls Citizen 13660 by Miné Okubo, a book little-seen in its 1946 publication but more widely noticed when the University of Washington Press made it available again in 1983. Okubo was herself a victim, and each page carries a sketch along with a descriptive commentary of the traumatic journey, loss of worldly goods, ill treatment, and no financial retribution (it finally came generations later, after the great majority had died). Pyle takes a different tack, by looking at young juvenile delinquents in the making who happen to live in a suburb that isn't but could be the site of one of the desolate, so-called "Relocation Camps." Acting as adolescents often do and deprived of their erstwhile playground, they cheerfully break things, including parts of the new construction of houses for the exurban sprawl (they don't do it for aesthetic reasons, but our sympathies go out to them a little).
Again, Pyle takes up young-male psychology, and does it brilliantly. The story takes a twist as the Japanese-American shopkeeper who takes him on as an assignment, in lieu of a jail sentence, turns out to be...well, you guessed it, and most readers will, simply from the cover of the book. It is colored in brown and blue tints, with considerable sections of silence, "wordless comics." This reviewer's descriptions cannot be equal to the beauty of the pages or the power of the narrative.
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About the Author
Paul Buhle retired from college teaching to produce radical comics fulltime. His latest include Studs Terkel's Working, A Graphic Adaptation [reviewed in these pages], The Beats, A People's History of the American Empire (aka an adaptation of Howard Zinn's classic) and a pictorial biography of his childhood hero, The Art of Harvey Kurtzman. His last production (2011) is Yiddishkeit: Jewish Vernacular & the New Land, edited with Harvey Pekar, and reviewed in these pages. (back)