Why the People: The Case for Democracy | Review
Why the People: The Case for Democracy
written by Beka Feathers; art by Ally Shwed
First Second, $28.99
Why the People is another in First Second’s line of World Citizen comics, civics-focused non-fiction graphic novels that aim to “equip readers to be active citizens and informed voters.” I’m always a bit hesitant when I pick up one of these titles, as part of me hasn’t shaken the idea that educational works, particularly about politics and citizenship, are going to be too good-for-me to be entertaining.
Thankfully, Why the People uses images and metaphors in a clever way to make the material memorable and to justify the comic format.
Twenty-three-year-old Julie and forty-three-year-old Lin are in an airport over Thanksgiving weekend. In amongst the crowds, they discuss different types of governments, considering how they form, what distinguishes them, and how they treat the people. The airport is symbolic, as both involve “decisions about where you go and how you get there…. So we need to think about where we want to go, who we want to bring along, and what we need to take with us.”
Factors discussed include legitimacy, transparency, fairness, who makes the decisions, and inclusion. The two explore monarchies, dictatorships, governments run by a small group (aristocracies, theocracies, oligarchies), and finally, democracy. Historical examples provide detail and specifics. More questions follow, such as who’s allowed to participate and what kind of democracy works well.
There’s a lot of material discussed here, including some deep principles. I found myself rereading the book to make sure I was grasping it. Although much of it consists of statements and dialogue, the illustrations make it enjoyable. And the points are very important, including the need for knowledge and participation. Why the People does well what it sets out to do; it belongs in any library that aims to educate.
Johanna Draper Carlson has been reviewing comics for over 20 years. She manages ComicsWorthReading.com, the longest-running independent review site online that covers all genres of comic books, graphic novels, and manga. She has an MA in popular culture, studying online fandom, and was previously, among many other things, webmaster for DC Comics. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
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