cover image What Unites Us: The Graphic Novel

What Unites Us: The Graphic Novel

Dan Rather, Elliot Kirschner, and Tim Foley. First Second, $28.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-23994-5

Both old-fashioned in lauding American virtue and revisionist in examining America’s “explosive injustices,” this graphic distillation of Rather’s 2017 bestseller embraces the nation’s faults and promise. Striding through event-packed panels in his trademark reporter’s trench coat, Rather enumerates the values he believes should unite the fractious country. Chapters focus on themes such as freedom and community, with Rather weaving in snapshots of his working-class Texas upbringing to illustrate everything from his appreciation of nature to the crucial role libraries and schools play in a functioning democracy. Unsurprisingly, the standout sections feature the anchorman defending journalism—arguing that the chaos of a free press is worth it when “long-term accountability is more important than short-term stability.” His decades as a reporter provide vivid jumping-off points to dissect issues from racism to war to homophobia (for example, after finally producing a report on AIDS in 1986, he notes that, “like so many others... I journeyed from ignorance to tolerance to inclusion”). Foley’s loose-lined illustrations are appropriately cheeky yet idealistic—Norman Rockwell by way of Larry Gonick. Though the traumas rooted in the 2016 election hang over the adaptation, Rather strikes a pragmatic message: “Democracy is an action more than a belief.” Rather and his collaborators’ work of clear-eyed optimism delicately threads American idealism and realism. (Mar.)