CMYK Goodreads Reviews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Heroes in Crisis by Tom King is one of the most significant discussions on mental health I’ve ever read. It was released last year to extremely mixed reviews and trending negatively; in large part due to one word used in the title. Crisis. Historically when DC fans see the word Crisis it means big things are changing within their established multiverse. Early readers misunderstood what it was they were to begin reading and were upset that this was simply a random book about heroes complaining, essentially. That’s a testament to the disregard we have as a nation towards mental health. In our country anything promoting positive mental health is met with derision as the popular opinion. The word Crisis in the title is not out of place. This book is about super people coping with the things that have happened to them, and the things they’ve done.
Heroes in Crisis is also a murder mystery. It opens with Booster Gold (the greatest hero you’ve never heard of) sitting at a diner in Nebraska when Harley Quinn walks into the restaurant. She waxes eloquent about Freud and wrestling with one's inner demons leaving one scathed before stabbing Booster with a knife. The reason for this is that she saw Booster kill Wally West, the Flash, at Sanctuary, their place of healing. Booster, in his defense, saw Harley kill Wally there.
The book is filled with ‘talking head’ shots from different super people, many of whom are lesser known and I think it was a great idea to include them. Upon my first read through I saw them as something of cannon fodder to avoid killing major heroes, but after careful consideration I realized my error. They’re people, just like everyone else; they’re not lesser than the “major” heroes. One of the lesser known heroes, Hot Shot, and in his discussion with Sanctuary he talks about how he just wants to make an impact and be remembered. He has a catch phrase: I’m just warming up. When Superman arrives at the scene he sees Hotshot and breaks down over the fact that he can’t remember the thing he would say to everyone when he was fighting. That level of humanity from Superman resonated with me. This figure that is nigh invulnerable brought to tears over one life meant a lot to me.
Batman and the Flash both investigate the crime scene and come up with opposing findings. Batman thinks Harley Quinn committed the murders and Flash thinks Booster Gold is the culprit. While they wrestle with these findings, Lois begins to receive the supposedly anonymous tapes from Sanctuary with the heroes sessions on them. This, to me, brought up a lot of serious issues. The heroes only agreed to go and embrace Sanctuary believing no one would ever know they were there or what was discussed. Doctor/patient confidentiality is in serious violation. This sort of breach of privacy is probably something a lot of individuals are concerned about; it may keep them from ever seeking therapy. Lois writes an article about Sanctuary and leaves out the specifics of the heroes as a compromise between Clark and herself..
Superman and Wonder Woman address the world at large in a press conference and his speech primarily concerns the world view of mental health should be, in my opinion. Superman says “If we need to heal, are we broken? Are we unworthy of your trust? Does the fact that we’re vulnerable and sometimes afraid mean you should always be afraid? Should the fact that Sanctuary exists scare you? On the contrary, it should comfort you. This suffering, this need for healing. It is the wound of a warrior.”
In this passage Superman is saying that acknowledging the need for help isn’t weakness but strength. This is true in our world as much as their fictitious one. If you or someone you love is in crisis and in need of help, don’t shun them or look down on them for it. It’s alright to be afraid of the process; getting help can be scary. What we shouldn’t be afraid of is what other people will think or say in light of the news of someone seeing a mental health professional. There is a profound scene between Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. Ivy has done everything she can to help make Harley’s pain go away. Harley tells her the bad things don’t become good things. That nothing helps, but Ivy helps. You can’t replace bad memories with good ones, those bad things happened. What we can try to do for ourselves and our loved ones is be someone in their life that helps.
In summation, I was thoroughly impressed by the psychology of this book. Tom King, an ex CIA operative, obviously has a firm grasp of people’s capacity to endure pain. This book was so spot on with it’s simile and allegory about the personal struggles of mental health that I have to rate it five stars. As I said, it was mostly poorly received by the community at large, but I think those that didn’t enjoy it possibly didn’t appreciate the nuance with which it delivers its message. I recommend everyone read this book. Also, if you or someone you know is in crisis please don’t hesitate to seek help.
View all of Jonathan's reviews at MCPL Goodreads
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Hello avid readers,
Continuing our theme of injustices in America, this month’s book dates us back to 1941 during World War II. George Takei tells a mostly autobiographical accounting of Japanese internment in the United States in the months following the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. In response, out of fear, then President Roosevelt signed order 9066 which indirectly labeled all Japanese in America, whether they were citizens or not, enemy aliens. Several detention camps were established stretching from Arkansas west of the Mississippi river all the way to California. Eventually, George’s family, along with 120,000 other people of Japanese descent would be detained unconstitutionally in these camps. George was only five when his family was forced out of their home, and nine when the camp he then found himself in closed and his family was ousted unceremoniously back out into the world with nothing more than a one way bus ticket for each of them.
I found it surprising that, for George, the time in camp wasn’t altogether unpleasant. From his child’s innocent perspective they were at first going on vacation. He enjoyed the rides on the train they took and his parents made every effort to preserve their children’s innocence in the face of such hardship as most of us have never experienced. During the winter they enjoyed snow for the first time in the easternmost detention camp. Santa visited them, and even though George recognized the fake Japanese santa as not being the real true santa he had seen at the mall, he didn’t spoil the event for his brother or the other children in camp.
George’s fathers’ story is one of dedication, perseverance, and forgiveness. He works hard to insulate his family from as much of the anguish as he can, bearing the burden himself as much as possible. He finds ways to contribute by becoming block manager in each camp in which they reside. After their imprisonment ends he talks to George of the good works President Roosevelt accomplished despite his obvious missteps at which the Takei family suffered directly. Personally I’m not sure his actions are easily forgiven. The government did attempt reparations however mild in the form of $20,000 sent to each of the surviving 60,000 detainees some 50 years later. Unfortunately George’s father didn’t live to see the country apologize, but George seemed to accept it wholeheartedly.
This book hinges on the themes of survival in the face of adversity, the tenacity of innocence, and the power of love both familial and tribal. The Japanese survived years of hardship by banding together and uplifting one another despite their harsh circumstances. Several times when the Takei family is faced with an utterly devastating decision they say they’ll do what’s best for their family. I admire that, his father was almost always level headed and that kept his family grounded.
There are things in this story that weren’t taught in US history class. We tend to gloss over or completely omit things that reflect negatively on ourselves. George himself could find nothing of his childhood incarceration when he was a teenager looking for more information. He had to rely on his father’s accounts for much of what he had endured. This story is a must read. It’s relevance reaches forward through the decades to this very moment in our current events. A law recently overturned by the Supreme court allowed the current president to detain Mexican immigrants and their children, called Dreamers. To think that the same mistakes that were made almost 80 years ago are being repeated now in our modern age is heinous. This book resonates with anyone who has ever been persecuted for any reason. To anyone who is living in fear of their rights being violated or stripped away I say read this book and have hope.
View all of Jonathan's reviews at MCPL Goodreads
More to Explore
Begin to explore more on this topic with the resources mentioned in episode 2 of the CMYK@MCPL podcast.
Lewis, K. (2017). “Behind the Fence Wire.” Storyworks, 24(6), 4.
Abstract: “The article presents an overview of the quality of life of 11-year-old Japanese American boy William Hiroshi Shishima inside the prison camp during World War II. The topics discussed include the decision of the American government to send thousands of Japanese Americans to internment camps due to belief that they are threats to the country and the quality of lives that the said families had inside the camps.”
Explore more of the databases available on our website at https://www.mclib.org/teens/homework-resources/.