cover image Undocumented: A Worker’s Fight

Undocumented: A Worker’s Fight

Duncan Tonatiuh. Abrams ComicArts, $19.99 (26p) ISBN 978-1-4197-2854-9

Tonatiuh’s lean and elegant fable plots a memorable map of one man’s immigration experience. Laid out in an accordion-fold format, Tonatiuh’s slim but big-hearted graphic novella is narrated by Juan, a Mixteco-speaking man who crossed from Mexico to America while a teenager. Since then, he has worked with “no papers,” underpaid and unknown (“You don’t know our names but you’ve seen us”), laboring seven days a week and living in miserable poverty. While the experience of undocumented workers in America is most often told via hard-hitting, dry reportage with occasional attempts at melodrama, this comic is both inventive in form and (darkly) humorous. The plot is a staunch, if short, ode to the power of collective labor, as Juan is recruited to and ultimately leads the fight for better wages and visibility for immigrant workers of many different nationalities. The direct and brief narrative reveals Tonatiuh’s background as a picture book creator, with pages formatted much like a child’s read-aloud, but the earth-tone coloring and use of flattened perspectives and long scrolling arcs of action evoke ancient Mixteco codices. While speaking to the current political climate, Tonatiuh’s work is also a timeless reminder of the dignity inherent to labor and the laborer. This is the graphic novella reconfigured as a call to action. (Aug.)