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illustrations of history through the eyes of a child

When I was first starting out as an independent graphic designer, well before I even dreamed of starting a business, building brands, all the stuff I LOVE about my job now… I got a call from a good friend who was writing a book and was interested in hiring me on for some illustrations. Admittedly, at the time, that wasn’t something I had a whole lot of experience with, but with a degree in studio art under my belt I figured I could take a decent stab at it.

Boy… am I glad I did. The experience of illustrating “Another Look: Growing up in the Jim Crow South” by Betsy Bunn, was eye-opening in so many ways. The art was fun, as art almost always is, but at times it was also a little uncomfortable. Betsy’s stories paint a picture of what it was like for her as a very young, white girl growing up in the Jim Crow south, as the daughter of educated, liberal parents. She tells the story of sneaking her brother’s binoculars to look out her bedroom window at night to get a better look at the burning crosses just miles away… We get to journey across the train tracks to the segregated part of town to deliver library books, knowing full-well that it was against the rules to do so… Through Betsy’s lens, we get to experience the world of hateful racism from the perspective of a curious child.

In the face of the Black Lives Matter movement and all of the amazing momentum for Black rights that’s going on in our country today, I have to acknowledge the fact that I’ll never fully “get it”. I’m not black. Being a victim of systemic racism just isn’t a part of my heritage and it would be shallow of me to pretend otherwise. But reading Betsy’s stories helped me to understand a bit of that history from a perspective I could more easily imagine. I’ve been a young white girl… I know what it felt like to be scared of things I didn’t understand and to realize, later in life, the importance of what was happening around me. I can’t ever know what it’s felt like, for centuries, to grow up Black in America, but I can understand this moment in history, and the moments that Betsy brings to life in her book, a little better having read “Another Look”. I highly recommend reading. It’s as entertaining as it is shocking, and Betsy’s southern roots make her a natural-born story-teller. Even more highly, I suggest reading it in your head while imagining a smooth, warm, molasses southern drawl.

some of the more "uncomfortable illustrations


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