cover image Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Graphic Novel

Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Graphic Novel

Cynthia Levinson, Sanford Levinson, and Ally Shwed. First Second, $28.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-250211-61-3

This jaunty graphic adaptation of the Levinsons’ 2017 youth guide to “the framers, their fights, and the flaws that affect us today” highlights the enduring problem points in the foundational document of the United States. Each chapter opens with real-life dilemmas that, according to the authors, stemmed from “crises we’ve faced since 1787 [due to] the limitations, ambiguities, and flatly bad ideas in the Constitution.” The work is at its strongest in these personalized anecdotes, such as an elderly woman disenfranchised by voter ID laws and an undocumented immigrant’s fight for legal status, but focus gets lost as 21 chapters race to cram in examples of how the Constitution impacts contemporary America in matter ranging from gerrymandering to farm subsidies. Shwed’s crisp layouts and cute character design manage to make the information overload more digestible, while Gerardo Alba’s red-white-and-blue color palette provides even the driest topics some pop. The Levinsons can be credited with a mountain of research and noble aims. But while it may appeal to students eager to avoid a standard textbook slog, the combination of dense text and rambling focus proves less accessible than the comics treatment promises. All the elements for a timely resource are here, but the result feels a touch underbaked. (Sept.)