Monday, May 21, 2012

Best Shot in the West - Patricia & Fredrick McKissack, Randy Duburke

Best Shot in the West by Patricia C. McKissack & Fredrick L McKissack Jr illus. by Randy Duburke
This is a graphic novel based on the life of Nat Love who was born into slavery in 1854 and grew up to become a famous cowboy.  The author's based this graphic novel off of Love's autobiography.  "The Life and Adventures of Nat Love.

I was confused by the first few pages, it felt as if I was thrown into Nat Love's post cowboy life as a porter. Being unfamiliar with Nat Love's life, a part of me even wondered if I was reading the right story.    An old friend visits and convinces Love to write about his cowboy days.  Love begins by recounting his years as a slave.  After slavery is abolished Love earns a living by breaking horses, the first step to becoming a cowboy.

I did not  connect with this graphic novel textually or visually.  Part of problem was that I was still out of sorts from the early confusion. However I did try to compartmentalize, focusing only on what was in front of me and it still didn't work from. From a textual standpoint I felt it lacked the excitement  a cowboy story should have.  Within the panels the clarity of the faces drawn varies. I would've preferred if Duburke committed to using one style.

The story  focuses a lot of the camaraderie of the cowboys as they take on dangerous jobs, like herding cattle.   There's also much time spent on the battles between cowboys and Indians. Seeing Indians portrayed as the bad guys in Best Shot in the West, made me cringe. 

"We'd just left Dodge City after driving a herd of cattle. Our time there was not well spent: we'd boozed it up pretty good.  I believe I'd left my good sense there. As we passed the fort, I got the notion that we could use a cannon back at the ranch to protect us from rustlers and Indians."

Good or bad history is what  it is and can not be changed nor should it be rewritten. While I am against the rewriting history I am all for having a supplement in the back that places the history of this context.  I got off on the wrong foot with this graphic novel and it never got better. 

I am linking this post to Non Fiction Monday. This weeks round up can be found at Apples with Many Seeds.


Ms. Edith Campbell said...

Yikes! I was looking forward to this one!


Perogyo said...

Good call on a supplement.

Tammy Flanders said...

Thanks for your contribution for this week's Nonfiction Monday event. I like the frankness of your review.

Debbie Reese said...

Got it from the library yesterday and agree with your concern about the ways American Indians are portrayed. As with any demographic at any point in history, there were some who were good and some who were bad. All of them were/are human beings.

Using "Indians" without any words to modify it is a problem.

"Rustlers" --- were these rustlers White? Native? Who were those "Indians" Love needed protecting from? Rustlers? Or, was that rancher a squatter? How did that rancher acquire the land? Legally? Might those Indian men who attacked the ranch fighting to get their land back?