Simply looking at the two covers of Don Brown’s graphic nonfiction books allow a glimpse into the talent Brown has in illustration. But the story and storytelling are equally evocative. In fact, a reader learns as much through the text as they shown by turning the pages of these accessible stories providing perspective on two disasters that affected Americans.
The Great American Dust Bowl showcases the man-made tragedy of dust storms sweeping the west during the early 1900s after the land was taken from Native Americans and turned over to farmers who, without proper knowledge, farmed the land to excess. This led to dust storms that brought financial ruin, health issues and death, and environmental devastation. And with little dialogue and a precise narrative, the shocking story is ripe for discussion about what actions were taken (or not) which prolonged the problem.
Likewise, Brown makes the issue of action– or lack of it– central to Drowned City about Hurricane Katrina: trains that left stations without passengers, buses that were never called upon on top of politicians that would have known more if they turned on the television rather than from their own administrations, and the lack of basic necessities at the Superdome and local hospitals.
Brown makes you think and react because his visual art is stunning and rich. There are images etched in my brain and facts that I can quickly recall that make his work thoughtful and enriching.