Greetings for the Spring holidays !

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The US and the Holocaust.

So yesterday I binged on Ken Burns’ brilliant, immensely powerful, critically important, and sadly still relevant ndew documentary, “The US and the Holocaust”. In it, he shows the path that led Germany to hitler, his war on Europe and the world, and specifically the war on the Jews where his goal was to completely wipe out the Jews, which he nearly accomplished by murdering 2/3 of European Jewry. There are film clips, photos and documents of everything, from the stripping of rights, burning books, sending off to Ghettos and killing camps, as well as the outcome. Along with this story we are shown the American responses- disbelief in what was happening despite reports from news outlets and some aware and honest diplomats. We are also shown clips of henry ford and hitler, charles lindburgh’s anti-semitic, anti-interventionist speeches as well as comments in support of hitler, and the ways that many white Christians here did all that they could do to prevent refugees and immigrants from entering the US including withholding critical documents sent from Europe describing the situation as well as other documents that actually gave permission to increase the number of refugees to be allowed. We see the German Bund, a pro-nazi organization here in the US that purported to be all American. As my good friend Annamaria, a retired professor of Jewish history Krakow said, “sounds like burns dug up all the worms…”. I watched and thought of my teachers and friends whose families were killed. Most of my family came in the early 1900s to escape the pogroms, anti-Semitism, cossacks and Czar’s secret police. I also thought of my Armenian friends who lost family in the Genocide led by Turkey, as well as my Mexican, Japanese, Chinese and Black friends who all suffered from the same kind racism that still exists today, now maga-driven that still causing suffering here and around the world. Damn. But next weekend is the start of the Jewish new year, with it’s hope for redemption from hate and violence and the desire for a sanity and peace and a sweet year.
I recommend watching the documentary series as well as this interview with Stephen Colbert and Ken Burns.

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A Case Study About Creating Graphic Novels in the Classroom

Thinking about problems arising from the lack of understanding about the very real trials and tribulations caused by forced migrations, and trying to adjust to a new land, new customs and new ways of living, I thought back to this passage from my dissertation about a very creative project in West Florida.

One of the more interesting programs using graphic novels to investigate social justice takes a very different approach. Rather than using existing graphic novels to start conversations, a team of educators provided instruction about the formal elements of graphic novels, similar to the material found in McCloud’s (1994) Understanding Comics. The students then created their own stories and in order to explore their shifting identities. This project, called Graphic Journeys’ Project was developed in a in West Florida school district to teach middle schools students towrite their own stories in the form of graphic novel, theorizing that graphic novels can assist people in their community transitions from immigrant or refugee to new resident in order to gain a better understanding of who and what they are becoming as well as the process itself.

This project was done with 32 middle school English learners who told their personal family stories about immigration through graphic novels. A critical component of this project was to help them explore their shifting identities from where they came from (leaving behind families, friends, communities and cultures) to a new country where they were required to learn and adapt to the language and customs. Graphic Journeys was a multimedia literacy project that took place over a period of six months in the ESOL classroom of a diverse public middle school on the west coast of Florida. Asa multimedia, personal writing project, Graphic Journeys engaged teen ESL classes in the composition process while building bridges to help them acquire academic English language skills. This project offered 32 ELs the opportunity to research their family’s immigration narratives and depict them as graphic stories. The stories were compiled and published in hardcover books that were distributed to each participating student at a large-scale family/community event. The context of The Graphic Journeys project was to create a framework for students to explore identity-as-narrative, situated in an ESL classroom. The students created a conceptual framework for their telling own stories in detail in the graphic novel and comics format. The teachers “supported the students’ reflections on the implications of this type of project, and provided recommendations based on integrating a multi-literacies pedagogy with academic English language instruction” (Danzak, 2011, p. 187). The result of this is that students were able to increase their knowledge of the English language by using a multi-literacy pedagogy to telling stories that they were intimately familiar with-their own.

Posted in Civil rights, Comics, David Greenfield Dissertation, Diaspora communities, Education, ESL, Graphic Novels, Learning, Multi-cultural America, multiple intelligences, Peace, Project-based learning, Social Justice | Leave a comment

Dispatches from the Hunker Bunker #3: Sox, comix & education

These are my work-out socks- I am training for Themed Sox Week, a celebration of victory over the sock elves, those little mischief makers who steal and then return single socks. Starting tomorrow I will celebrate with a different theme, no matter how obscure.

This week I received 4 new (new for me) books:  The Year of the rabbit  a graphic memoir  written by Tian Veasna a Cambodian survivor of the deadly Khmer Rouge;  Trinity: a graphic history of the first atomic bomb by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm (the title says it all); Unterzakhn by Leela Corman, and described in The Comics Journal  as a

“story of twin Jewish girls growing up in New York’s Lower East Side in the early 20th century is also about the art of survival and the arbitrary nature of what determines who lives and who dies, it’s really a celebration of human kindness in the face of the abyss and a condemnation of arbitrary, rules-based ethics systems.”

I also received Carnet de voyage by Craig Thompson, a book he wrote while researching his brilliant Habibi.

The three of these have landed on my every growing Towers of unread and in-process rooks, scattered around my apartment, waiting for me to finish reading We spoke out: comic books and the holocaust  edited by Rafael Med­off and Neal Adams and Craig Yoe, Joe Kubert This book has stories by many of the great author/artists of the 50s. 60s and 70s, including Al Feldstein and Jack Davis, Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood,  and others. Some of the stories are real, others are altered history with superheroes such as Captain Marvel, Batman, and Captain America.

The thing about these different books, or perhaps the theme of these books is that they are real and authentic about real events and people (well except for the superheroes), written by people who want and need to tell their stories in the genre of graphic literature and comics. This genre is like a form of poetry, that melds words and images in a narrative that engages reader’s eyes and imagination, presenting an intimate and immediate narrative. Books about history usually focus on the big story, memoirs explore and chronicle journeys and events and stimulate the imagination to see through the words of the writer. Movies can tell a story, but they are big, distant from the intimacy from the writer’s and artist’s own personal vision, and because of costs and the number of people involved making decisions, are also often from the original vision of the author. When I read a work of graphic literature I feel as if I am traveling in the author’s own mind, in their own memories. Looking at an image is as if the authors themselves are pointing to details of events that are critical to their narrative, and their words express their emotions about it.

We live in a world of mass migrations of people, looking for a better life, and to escape the violence, suffering and hate. People move around and find themselves in new lands, in new situations far from the familiarity of their homes.  They work to navigate new lands, climates, foods, language, customs and people. This is of course the nature of our planet, people looking for a place to live, work, and celebrate. Perhaps one of the jobs of educators (besides helping people to gain skills for work) is to help peoples negotiate through their differences, past the fear of the other and to see the similarities of people. Graphic literature and comics can provide a small, but important part of this process.

And of course, graphic literature and comics are also fun!


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Dispatches from the Hunker Bunker #2: Interesting and fun websites for the quarantined

Over the past three weeks, I’ve gathered some websites that are interesting, engaging, and fun. I’ve assembled a list of some of these sites- taken mostly from the arts, with a few other subjects thrown in for good measure. I’ve also included a few links to some artists that I know, others recommended to me. And of course a few links to graphic literature and comix sites (as well as my dissertation).


Free coloring books from 113 museums

The Craftmanship Initiative

The National Emergency Library is a gift to readers everywhere

10 University Art Classes You Can Take for Free Online

Use your new indoor free time transcribing rare documents for the Library of Congress

This Virtual Tour of the Carlsbad Caverns Will Entertain You (and Your Kids) for Hours (Video)

Comix & Graphic Literature

Frederick Luis Aldama, Professor Latinx

Beyond Super Heroes and Talking Animals: Social Justice in Graphic Novels in Education (my disserttion)

Comics as poetry

Drawn and Quarterly (publishes some of my favorite authors)

Graphic Medicine website

Graph­ic Nov­els and Comics from a Jew­ish Perspective

Sarah Lightman, artist, writer, editor

Sequentials Journal

Spin and Weave, the website of Nick Sousinis

Teaching a course on Arabic graphic novels

50 essential Jewish graphic novels from abe books

Museums & Artists

A 5-Hour, One-Take Cinematic Tour of Russia’s Hermitage Museum done on an iPhone

A museum dedicated entirely to words and language is opening in Washington, DC

Art and Architecture: THE SHAPE OF LIGHT

Caroline Blum, artist

Chamomile Tea Party

Computer Histotry Museum

Fred Duignan, artist

Ian Everard, artist

Judy, Florida family portrait

Museum challenges people in self-quarantine to recreate favorite works of art with objects at home

NASA makes entire media library publicly accessible copyright free

Paris Museums Put 100,000 Images Online for Unrestricted Public Use 

Elizabeth Pollie, artist

Felicia Rice, Moving Parts Press

Margaret Rinkovsky, artist

World-Class Museums Offering Virtual Tours Right From Your Laptop

Music & Theater & Dance

1,000 Jewish, Christian and Muslim strangers sing Bob Marley’s “One Love” in Jerusalem

Austin City Limits opens up video archives for free during COVID-19 pandemic

Beethoven, Symphony No.9, 4th movement sung by a 10000 voice choir in Japan

David Broza – YiHye Tov (Things will Get Better)

The great opera classics available online for free

You Can Stream Shakespeare Plays Recorded At The Globe Theatre, Online

 Xtra Fun

Colors named after real people

For cat lovers

How to make bagpipes out of a garbage-bag

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A Sign for the Times

Taken from

For the entertainment portion of today’s blog, we begin with an
article and video link to Gal Gadot and friends singing a beautiful
and haunting version of Imagine
Click here to for the link to the article and video

We close this blog with Ms. Petula Clark singing, It’s a sign of the times

It was a them today..

Posted in Art, Education, For all mankind, Gal Gadot Imagine, Gal Gdot, Israeli Christians, Israeli Jews, Israeli Muslims, Middle East Peace, Multi-cultural America, Peace, Petula Clark, Social Justice, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dispatches from the hunker bunker #1- Empty Shelves and Graphic Medicine in comics

Day 12 of hunkering in the greenfield bunker, 5 days since my last journey to hunt for provisions. Being a little short of water in mi casa de los dos gatos, I made my way to wild lands of a near-ish Target. But to no avail- their proverbial well was dry, as well as their shelves. So then attempted to order some water online, and discovered some this precious elixir at the fields of Sprouts and ordered some. Two days later when the astute shopper was shopping for me. he sent an image of the hollow shelves where the water used to live. But, he happily said, they have beer, which is why I suddenly find myself with a 6-pack of a Sierra Nevada IPA of some sort. I’m so happy that I ordered a bicycle trainer so that I will be able to exercise the beer away. Friday can’t come soon enough.

And now, a word from our sponsor (me), graphic literature and comix for education.
Stay tuned (can I still use this term here?) fellow quarantiners, I have received a small crop of graphic literature and comix to read and write about. For now, in the time of virus, check out this important and very cool site called Graphic Medicine, about new comics about COVID-19 These are some really good examples of the benefits of using  graphic literature and comix for education.

Be safe and stay healthy dear readers.

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There and here: Diaspora communities in graphic literature and comix, Part II

One of the first examples of a graphic narrative about an immigrant’s experience is literature is The Four Immigrants Manga (1931), written and illustrated by Henry Kiyama, 1885-1951). The book went out of print and was lost until it was translated into English by Frederik L. Schodt in 1999. The book is a memoir by Mr. Kiyama of his experience coming to San Francisco in 1904 to study art, an d describes his (and his friends’s experience) navigating western culture through the  Meiji era sensibilities, the San Francisco Earthquake and growing racism between Japanese immigrants and white Americans, as well as Chinese immigrants. We are provided an opportunity to read and see the life of an immigrant through their eyes about their experiences, written in their time,100 years ago and not through the lens of the sensibilities of contemporary society and culture. It is at once fascinating, interesting and honest and shows the tension between the white population and all Asians living there, unwilling to recognize the difference between Japanese and Chinese culture, and language.  Jason Thompson describes this manga is “frozen in time with diligent documentary-style realism, with cynical humor and cartoony cheer”. You can read this book here:}.

Part of the beauty and power of this book is that it is authentic and honest. Writers and artists (sometimes one in the same) have chosen this media for a number of reasons, including the fact that they are not as costly to produce, distribute, translate than movies, theater, or other action-based media. More importantly, they remain closer to the experiences, sensibilities, and knowledge of the narrator/artist, without the input of studios and producers willing to change a true narrative to one that is inspired by actual events. Authors can use complete realism in telling their stories, such as  the March trilogy about the life of Congressman John Lewis, or Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. Or authors can employ a more fantastical approach, such as  Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize winning Maus where  his father’s experiences during  the Holocaust are described by animals characters without any dilution to his story and experiences.

Over the past 15 years or so, authors and artists from around the world have published a plethora of graphic memoirs, biographies and histories about their own experiences, or those of their family, friends, community or nation.Stories about where they came from (There) and where they ended up (Here). We know from history that people generaly do not leave their homes to become refugees in foreign lands, far away from their communities, and cultures. They flee to escape natural disasters such as floods, fires, and earthquakes. But more often, they flee to escape war, violence, racism, poverty, and hate, and seek opportunities to be able to live in peace, to work, and raise a family. Being a stranger in a strange land is no piece of baklava. They are faced daily struggles learning new languages, laws, customs, cultures, foods, and as well as other newcomers trying to fit in. The people and the cultures that they bring with them are more often than not misunderstood which lead to ignorance, fear and hate.

In my personal collection, I have stores from There- books about and by authors from There: Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Palestine, Libya, Iraq, Spain, Iran, Yugoslavia Eastern Europe, and Here: immigrants and communities from the Middle East, Vietnam, China, South America, Africa, and China. I have stories about the Holocaust, Racism, Anti-Semitism, refugees escaping war and terrorism, as well as those caught up in wars. Stories about the African-American, Latinx, Asian-American, and Jewish-Americans. Some of the books are aimed towards primary school, some high school, some to college and beyond. What they share is an authenticity and direct honesty of the story-teller sharing and exposing their story, their pain and often their success in surviving. And as readers, we read and learn, and hopefully acquire knowledge and empathy that reduce our own ignorance and fears.

I am often asked why comics, why graphic literature. As I have written, there are many reasons, including relatively low production costs, they promote literacy and critical thinking, and more. But there are other aspects too. I recently read Comics as Poetry, a lovely analysis of a 4-panel comic by cartoonist Lynda Berry . The analysis was written by Ivan Brunetti in the PARIS REVIEW. Below are some excerpts:

Comics are often likened to short stories and novels, or (more improbably) animated films, but in a sense they are also a kind of poetry, an incantation beckoning us to enter their world. The simplicity of their superficial concision can reveal surprising density, layers, and multivalence. In a poem, lines might form and fill a stanza, which literally means “room”; and so it is with comics, where panels could likewise be thought of as stanzas. Rows, columns, and/or stair-steps of panels, in turn, structure a page (or an entire story) of comics and give it its particular cadence. Even the simplest grid tattoos its rhythmic structure onto the page.

……Barry bestows upon all of us, readers and artists alike, a similar gift. This is from her most recent book, Making Comics: “Stories that lend themselves to comics can be found in a certain kind of remembering I sometimes call an image. It’s a sort of living snapshot, the kind of memory you can turn around in.”…

…This is as elemental as comics get: one character in one space, in one continuous action, spanning just a few panels, all housed within an evenly sectioned grid. However, even an element contains vast inner spaces and subatomic particles elusively whizzing and whirring within it, and this seemingly simple strip is, in fact, quite complex and nuanced….

Continue reading

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There and here: Diaspora communities in graphic literature and comix, Part 1

From Wikipedia:
“…diaspora is used to refer to the involuntary mass dispersion of a population from its indigenous territories, most notably the Jews who were dispersed from the Land of Israel in antiquity”

So I am a member of this notable community described in Wikipedia, although more recently (early 1900s) my family came from Russia, Poland and Romania. I grew up on the east side of Los Angeles with a lot of other hyphens- Mexican-, Chinese-, Japanese-, Armenian, Russian-Americans (and a few others). It was a pretty cool community- we managed to get along, study, play and celebrate with each other, connected with thee understanding that no matter what language was spoken at home, what we ate, what holidays we celebrated, we were all Americans. But there was something else that we all shared, something not described in the definition provided by Wikipedia, and that is that people usually do not leave their homeland and homes unless they have to. They leave because of famine, natural disasters, difficult economic conditions, but especially war, hatred and violence. Within the communities that I grew up with, we had it all. I remember the Armenian shoemaker down the street from my father’s store, an elderly man who always had a joke and a piece of candy for me and had been a boy in Armenia when the Turks drove him and his family into the desert to die. But he did not. There were people who came for the economic benefits of not living as serfs, and for the opportunities offered in this country. My grandparents from Russia left to escape Cossacks and Pogroms. Some stayed behind in Europe and were never heard from again after the war. And I had teachers, parents and aunts and uncles of friends who had numbers tattooed on their arms. But we were all in American, living together through good, bad, laughter and tears, and learning to live with each other. And I must admit that all in all, this was a great way to grow up- learning about and celebrating with other cultures and communities.

Fast forward to a few years ago when I wrote my dissertation about using graphic novels to teach social justice in schools at a time when our country – hell, the world- was becoming more and more splintered. It seemed to me that some of the problems (among many others) are an increased lack of understanding and exposure to The Other, and along with that, a growing intolerance and lack of understanding of the experiences of  The Other, their communities  resulting racism, anti-Semitism, hatred and violence.  Put simply, this intolerance fuels fear, misconcpti0ns, misperceptions about The Other. I am happy that there are plenty of examples around the globe of people working to change this. I realize that on a whole, we are in deep doo-doo (so to speak), the words, work, art, and actions of like minded souls give hope. And each person working, creating and playing with The Other is truly involved and committed to critical practices that will benefit us all (and save us too).

So how and where does this all fit in with graphic literature and comix? To begin, I am a fan of the genre. No, not just a fan, but a BIG fan. For one, there is plenty of evidence demonstrating the many benefits of graphic literature, and comics- the promote literacy- both text based and visual and critical thinking;  are a gateway media to reading; are good for language learning;  and are engaging and fun. There is more, but that will wait for another blog (or book). More schools and universities are incorporating this media into their curriculum, both as media for the class, or in whole classes, and there are many sub-genre of this media, such as  my favorites- personal memoirs, biographies, autobiographies and history told in the form of sequential novels (the title of my dissertation is Beyond super heroes and talking animals).

I recently began to catalog my ever expanding collection of these types of books, and as I have done so, I had been trying to identify and organize them: should they be grouped  by era, nationality or geographical location (all possible solutions)? But then I saw a pattern of diaspora communities – they told about there, and about here. The cause of their leaving their homelands, and the resulting voyages to their new homes- never easy, and sometimes resulting in them jumping out of the proverbial frying pan into the fire.

One of the benefits and strengths of graphic literature is that they are more personal, and immediate than a movie, or a traditional novel, but they can be just as powerful and engaging.

Titles, topics, and authors coming in There and here: Diaspora communities in graphic literature and comix, Part II.

In the mean time, here are examples of some of my favorites:




There and here: Diaspora communities in graphic literature and comix, Part I is  taken from my presentation at the symposium Drawing Diversity, held at UCSB on January 24, 2o20.

Posted in Art, Civil rights, Comics, David Greenfield Dissertation, Education, Graphic Medicine, Graphic Novels, Hiroshima, Holocaust, Israeli Christians, Israeli Jews, Israeli Muslims, Jews, John Lewis, Joseph Kony, Learning, March, Middle East Peace, Multi-cultural America, Palestine, Paracuellos, Project-based learning, Social Justice, War | Tagged | Leave a comment

Once upon a time pre-State of Israel, there was Palestine

1904 poster of Tiberias Palestine

Funny how things change. The Israeli right is so adamant about the Palestinians not living in a country called Palestine, while at the same time denying that the country ever existed. Yet, guess what the country was called Palestine, way back when? Yep, you got it. Here is a facsimile of a 1929 poster designed by Zev Raban, artist and one of the founders of the Bezalel Art Academy in Jerusalem. (BTW, it was a gift from my good friend Dr. Annamaria Orla-Bukowska), from the Jewish quarter in Krakow. I love the style. The scene is Tiberias next to the Sea of Galilee.

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