Max Brooks, #1 New York Times bestselling author of World War Z, and The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks released something a little different – a graphical novel of WWI. ‘Harlem Hellfighters’ came out on April 1st, 2014, about a tale of American courage, rarely taught or heard of in American history books.
In 1919, the 369th infantry regiment marched home triumphantly from World War I. They had spent more time in combat than any other American unit, never losing a foot of ground to the enemy, or a man to capture, and winning countless decorations. Though they returned as heroes, this African American unit faced tremendous discrimination, even from their own government. The Harlem Hellfighters, as the Germans called them, fought courageously on—and off—the battlefield to make Europe, and America, safe for democracy. (via Random House)
Brooks had been working on this project for over 30 years, and it was in the late 90’s that he thought Hollywood might be interested in his screenplay. Though after countless rejections he decided to go a different route and connected with Caanan White, an acclaimed illustrator, to bring this history to life in a graphic novel.
Though race may be the biggest factor to this story it’s not the only thing you’ll take away from this story.
“If you take out the color of their skin and just look at their combat record, the Hellfighters spent more time in combat than any other American unit. The first American to win the Croix de Guerre [Cross of War Medal] was one of them. And they brought jazz to France. If these guys had been white, they would’ve been part of our American narrative since the 1920s.” (via ew.com)
Mr. Brooks, you had me at graphic novel. I was so excited to read the Q&A in the April 4th, issue of Entertainment Weekly, that I ordered ‘Harlem Hellfighter’ upon finishing the article.
I hope you add this to your next book club! Let me know what you think of Max Brooks book.