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‘Days of Sand’ HC GN (review)

Written and Illustrated by Aimée de Jongh
Published by SelfMadeHero

 

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the numerous attempts to rewrite American history and essentially pretend that all the bad stuff never happened.

The simple fact of the matter is that yes, the bad stuff happened, and to pretend it didn’t is even worse than the dilemma of the photographer star of Days of Sand, who begins to question if posing and staging photographs isn’t a way of manipulating reality to capture a truth that doesn’t exist.

Days of Sand portrays one nightmarish truth about America and that is life during the so-called Dust Bowl in Oklahoma during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Interspersing actual historic photos with its fast-moving, cinematic narrative about a young Eastern, urban photographer’s physical and philosophical odyssey into what amounts to an alien world for him, this deep dive into such a trying and desperate era in US history comes surprisingly via Dutch cartoonist Aimée de Jongh.

Her characters have that indefinable European visual feel to them. I’m not sure how to describe it but whenever I see European strips, I can usually identify them as such. Her backgrounds, though, are so deeply rooted in some of the actual 1930s Dust Bowl photos that it blurs the lines between the photography she writes about and the art she uses to both define and question that very same photography.

It’s a fascinating head game she’s playing with the reader and I didn’t even notice it at first as I slowly became as immersed as John, our hero, in his new surroundings. Given a specific “shopping list” of photo subjects by his new government bosses, John meets with resistance, both from the people and the elements. Over the course of its perfectly paced plot, the people—some anyway—come to warm to this goofy stranger in their midst. The effect on him overall leads to him questioning his own reality, his own motivations. And then something completely unexpected happens that changes everything.

In fact, that part happens a little too quickly, or so I thought at first. But then I realized that it’s those sudden occurrences that often throw our lives for a loop.

Days of Sand is fictional, but its setting is not, and based on the book’s text sections at the rear, it is meticulously researched, and we’re even left with a warning that it could possibly happen again if we don’t open our eyes to the effects of Global Warming.

Aimée de Jongh has done an impressive job with this book which works on multiple levels. The Dust Bowl itself was horrible but we can’t forget it. Days of Sand is history, fiction, philosophy, psychology, metaphysical, and, of course, beautifully, expertly drawn by a woman who shows a true mastery of the graphic novel form.

 

Booksteve recommends.

 

 

 

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