The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks | Book Review

Why Did I Read This Book?

I read The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks illustrated by Caanan White because I saw it on one of Christina at A Reader Of Fictions’s book hauls. She made it sound really interesting. As you probably know, graphic novels are like catnip to me, I just cannot resist them. Throw history and multiculturalism into the mix and I am hook line and sinker into the graphic novel. I have to say that for stepping away from his usual subject matter of zombies, Brooks does a really superb job in his storytelling about the 369th Infantry Regiment.

What’s The Story Here?

Essentially, what you see is what you get. The Harlem Hellfighters is about the 369th Infantry Regiment which was an all Black regiment that fought in World War One and is also a little known regiment, unfortunately. I say unfortunate because by not talking about this amazing history, it’s like we erase it. We see the men from enlistment to training in Spartansburg which is in the South to going overseas for labor and then combat. Through Brooks’ novel, I learned that the Harlem Hellfighters were this courageous group of men who were absolute heroes. I learned that these men were in combat for the longest amount of time during World War One for the Americans. I learned that the first French Cross awarded to an American was awarded to one of members of this regiment. While this is a story about heroism and courage, it also is a story about horrors — the horrors of war and sudden, gruesome death, and also the horrors of racism, both on an individual and institutional level.

How’s The Artwork?

Caanan White’s illustrations demand that you look at them and concentrate on them. Usually I can whip through graphic novels at warp speed, and okay I whipped through The Harlem Hellfighters at warp speed too. However, I really found myself pouring over and examining White’s artwork. It’s very detailed and intricate and moving. It is as though there is motion on the page. I think I would have liked color illustrations, but White’s use of black and white works for this book. It lends a somber sort of feeling.

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

  • History buffs
  • People who find war fascinating
  • People who strive to read diversely
  • People who like to read things that will make them angry
  • People who like graphic novels about history (i.e. if you liked The Silence Of Our Friends)

What Are My Final Impressions?

Honestly, I felt this anger while I was reading The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks. It made me so mad that White Americans (which is a grouping I am a part of) expected Black Americans to fight their wars and could not accord them equality. These men spilled their blood for my country and what did they get? Jim Crow laws. It’s messed up. I mean, okay, it’s expected, I know my history. Yet, it makes me so mad. Yes, the men get their parade, but they do not get their equality. Like, it made me so angry seeing these white men beat up on the 369th Regiment while in Spartansburg because these men are putting their lives on the line and joining up in the war. I mean, ugh those guys were such yellowbellies and it is so WRONG to treat a soldier like that. Man, I feel rage all over again just thinking about it.

Anyways, despite my obvious anger at my unfortunate history, given that I am a white American, I am so glad that I read The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks. I am so glad that I am now aware of these heroes and the amazing things that they did in World War One. I am so moved by this graphic novel. Highly recommended. FYI, I even read the author’s note at the end and the bibliography AND the acknowledgements.

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.

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About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.

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