Graphic Novel Review: The High Desert: Black. Punk. Nowhere. A Memoir by James Spooner

The High Desert: Black. Punk. Nowhere. A Memoir by James Spooner. HarperCollins, 2022. 9780358659112. 368pp.

Spooner’s memoir is about the year he and his mother moved back to Apple Valley, California, when he attended high school and discovered punk music. There’s a lot of overt, small town racism aimed at Spooner, plus a few pure assholes around. But he’s also able to reconnect with old friends, fan the flames of an intense crush, and to start to hang out with the only black punk kid in town, a guy who seems to be entirely himself. Spooner’s difficulties with his white mom (a teacher) and his distant black father (a PhD and a bodybuilder) feel real and fair. The book itself feels more honest than other high school coming of age memoirs that I’ve read, and it has a perfect ending. Minor spoiler: the whole year gives Spooner a community and sets him on his way to embracing punk’s DIY ethos This would be reason enough to have the book in any YA graphic novel collection, but it’s also an excellent read.

Spooner is known for his documentary film Afro-Punk and for co-creating Brooklyn’s Afropunk Festival.



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