Boxers and Saints


"Take  control of your mind and meditate
Let  your soul gravitate to the love, y'all"
--  Black-Eyed Peas "Where is the Love?"

"And  at night, we gather around the campfire to listen to Lu Pai tell his
"'They're  not even human, I tell you!  The foreign devils have no
compassion, no  shame!  They grind up people's eyeballs for medicine!'
"'All  their power comes from female Yin!  How do you think  they were able
 to defeat the Imperial Army during the Opium Wars?  China's army used to
be  the manliest in all the world!
"'Before  going to war, their foot soldiers smear menstrual blood across
their  foreheads!'
"'Their  officers drink goblets of it!'
"'What's  "menstrual blood"?'
"'They  fly flags woven from women's pubic hair over their churches!'
While  our main character (in BOXERS), Little Bao, acknowledges (to us)
that these  are outrageous (albeit entertaining) lies, there is no question
that  the insular nature of late-nineteenth century provincial China helped
build up  such outrageous lies into common knowledge.

"'As  we speak, murderers prowl the land, looking to kill every Christian
they  encounter!'"
I'm  sure that back in tenth grade (the 1970-71 school year), I must have
read a  sentence or two somewhere about the Boxer Rebellion.  But I plead
total  ignorance.  This was all new, great history learning for me.

On  one hand, BOXERS AND SAINTS is such a powerful read due to our being
privy to  what, on one level, are two diametrically opposed perspectives: that
of a  young man who goes from being entranced by the heroics of Chinese
opera  characters to becoming a leader of the Society of Righteous and
Harmonious  Fists (the Boxers); and that of a young woman who is not valued by her
family  but finds identity through Christianity.  What becomes so
enlightening in this notable work of history storytelling is the  profound ignorance
that pervades both points of view.  There is nobody  among our characters who
actually gets the big picture.  The economic  imperialism of the west
created widespread pain and hardship.  The  nationalist upwelling at the close of
the nineteenth century was a logical  reaction, but the tactics employed by
the Boxers were so barbaric as to  make themselves their own worst enemy.
The  intolerant attitude of the Christians, behind whom were exploitive
westerners, made them, too, their own worst enemy.  They were all a  bunch of

(We  don't run across the Buddhists in the middle of this violence.   They
were the ones who, even back then, knew which way was up.)
The  combination of great character development and the nature of a
well-illustrated  graphic novel (and this one is extremely well-illustrated) makes
the  frequent gore pretty intense.  You get to know somebody and a hundred
pages  later you see them with a sword coming out of their belly or a hole
through their forehead.  I'm pretty sensitive and so it really had my skin
crawling at times.

Today  being Thanksgiving, what I am grateful for, in reaction to reading
this  extraordinary two-book set, is the Internet and all those millions of
miles  of fiber optic cable that now encircle the globe.

Because  while one can make a case that there will always be hatred and
violence going on somewhere, there are billions more people around the globe
(and more every day) who get to see for themselves what is going on in a
world that keeps growing smaller and smaller thanks to those technologies.
There may always be hate-mongers and power-seekers trying to command our
attention and support, but in today's world it is so much easier and  more
likely that we will come to see ourselves in the faces of those half a  world
away, will find the love in ourselves, and will push back  against the hate.

Peace  and love, y'all.

 978-1596439245   512 pages  Ages  13 and up

Recommended by:  Richie  Partington, MLIS
See more of his picks:  Richie's Picks _https://richiespicks.com_ (

User reviews

1 review
Phenomenal graphic novelist with a heart for kids. This story weaves history, intrigue, great storytelling and beautiful art into one nicely composed story. Highly recommended.
Report this review Comments (0) | Was this review helpful? 0 0