A Graphic Novel by Aimée de Jongh
The Dust Bowl is an often overlooked period in United States history, lasting from 1934-1936, and 1939–1940. When times were already rough from The Great Depression, an almost eight year series of droughts and agricultural failures caused many families to have to abandon their homesteads and seek work out elsewhere, some never financially recovering. That is the setting for Days of Sand – Part 1, a new graphic novel by Aimée de Jongh through Europe Comics. The comic tells the story of John Clark, a young newspaper photographer hoping to get this “big break” doing work for a government agricultural agency to document living conditions in the dust-ravaged farmlands of rural America.
“United States, 1937. In the middle of the Great Depression, 22-year-old photographer John Clark is brought on by the nascent Farm Security Administration to document the calamitous conditions of the Dust Bowl in the central and southern states, in order to bring the farmers’ plight to the public eye. When he starts working through his shooting script, however, he finds his subjects to be unreceptive. What good are a couple of photos against relentless and deadly dust storms? The more he shoots, the more John discovers the awful extent of their struggles, coming to question his own role and responsibilities in this tragedy sweeping through the center of the country. A moving and unforgettable tale, inspired by real-life stories of courage and perseverance against all odds.”
I quite enjoyed seeing the various chapters bookended by actual Dust Bowl era photographs, it really sets the tone seeing some of the real images a photographer may have taken during this time. John Clark is a fictional character (as far as I know), so it’s not like these are by him, but they are indicative of what a man in his position would have seen. The artwork in Days of Sand is very good, Aimée de Jongh does an amazing job of setting the desperate tone, and showing the hardship of the wastelands without being gratuitous or treating it like some kind of post-apocalyptic book. The script is also very well done, and I can’t wait to see what happens in volume two, even though they have given enough foreshadowing for me to know that it will likely not be a happy ending.
That is sadly to be expected with the time frame, considering The Dust Bowl took the lives of approximately 7000 people, almost all within the first year of the drought. In total the devastation caused upwards of 200 Billion dollars in damages, something that was only rectified after the war when people were finally able to get back on their feet.
If you are a history buff, I can’t say I’ve seen any other comics on this particular time period out there. I mean, you could read The Grapes or Wrath or something, but this is more manageable for most people. For the author being Dutch, she has obviously done TONS of research on this book, and it doesn’t come across like it contains any sort of anachronism you sometimes get when foreign writers make something about American history. Stay tuned, this is definitely one I plan to track down the second volume of, once I see it get released!
If you would like a copy of this book for yourself, please click HERE
NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.