Tuesday, November 22, 2011

REVIEW: Gandhi: A Manga Biography, by Kazuki Ebine

Gandhi: A Manga Biography, by Kazuki Ebine. Published 2011 by Penguin Books. Graphica. Nonfiction.

Gandhi is part of a new series of manga biographies aimed at teens being published by Penguin; other titles include Che Guevara (which I'll be reviewing soon) and The 14th Dalai Lama. But this volume takes as its subject Mahatma Gandhi, the famed and revered activist who lead his country out of British rule and into independence, through nonviolent civil disobedience.

But our story opens in 1880 Porbandar, in India. Eleven year old Mohandas has a confrontation with an "untouchable" and begins to learn about the inequalities in his society. The book continues showing key moments in his life- his journey to England to study, his move to South Africa, and more. The story focuses on his development as an activist, with as much emphasis on the issues and causes that galvanized him as on his spiritual beliefs. The book is well illustrated in the manga style (except that it reads left to right, Western style), with a nice variety of panel sizes and placement of text and dialogue. It's somewhat episodic and lacks detailed background or exposition.

I enjoyed reading this book and I think it would make a fine choice for tweens and up, including adults, wishing to learn the basics about this important figure and leader. I like the emphasis on deeds versus beliefs (though you'll certainly get a sense of what he believed and why); I like the message it sends about individuals making a difference, motivated by principal as well as the experience of injustice. The reader gets a nice sense of Gandhi's development in these ways, and how this ordinary man grew in influence and reach until millions followed him and an entire nation (or two, depending on your point of view) was lead out of the British empire and into freedom. It's an inspiring story and this book is a great starting point.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Penguin.