Review: Victory! Stand!
Victory. Stand! Raising My Fist for Justice
By Tommie Smith, Derrick Barnes, and Dawud Anyabwile
Norton Young Readers, September 2022
When the 1968 Olympics took place in Mexico City, it was already past the height of the Civil Rights Movement. The legislation had been passed. The Federal government had legally put an end to segregation, but by no means had bigotry, racism, or the difficulties of the African American citizen evaporated.
This is the story of Tommie Smith, born in 1944 to a sharecropping family in rural Texas. Later, the family moved to California during the Great Northern Migration. Tommie, one of 14 children, now regularly attended school, because, in the State of California, it was the law for children to attend school. In school, Tommie was discovered as an athlete, especially in track and field. From his elementary school years, he made a mark, so that he was recruited into a good high school and later offered college scholarships.
In this memoir, Tommie Smith describes the racial injustice he experienced growing up. He shows how those experiences shaped him and propelled him to protest in the 1968 Olympics, and he also depicts the aftermath of that protest.
This graphic novel has received accolades, garnering many awards, such as a National Book Award Finalist, The Coretta Scott King Award, and the Winner of the 2023 YALSA Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction Award. Each award and every spot on a “best of list” that this title has earned was more than deserved.
The storytelling is compelling and intensely told. The story flashes back and forth between the 1968 Olympics and all of Tommie’s life events that led up to the race. The narrative is simple and to the point, almost factual and without emotion. What evokes the feelings is the beautiful artwork, which was left with black and white inks. The intensity is drawn into people’s faces, as Tommie races in the Olympics or the white people fling ugly epithets during his youth.
This book will give young readers a sense of America’s history. It will make an excellent classroom and independent read. Readers will be left with many questions, such as whether public opinion was too strong after the protest. This can lead to a discussion of more current protests, where we stand as a country, and how individuals can make a difference.
If you haven’t read this book yet, it’s a must-read.
About Esther Keller
Esther Keller is the librarian at William E. Grady CTE HS in Brooklyn, NY. In addition, she curates the Graphic Novel collection for the NYC DOE Citywide Digital Library. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ. In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics and worked in the same middle school library for 20 years.
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