"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 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
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