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The Beginning of the American Fall: A Comics Journalist Inside the Occupy Wall Street Movement

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Can a cartoonist and millions of random strangers change the world? The initial stages of their attempt are chronicled in this book of comics-journalism and written observations. Stephanie McMillan, long-time activist and cartoonist, has waited her entire life for the American people to rise up. Sparked by uprisings around the world, a new movement bursts onto the national Can a cartoonist and millions of random strangers change the world? The initial stages of their attempt are chronicled in this book of comics-journalism and written observations. Stephanie McMillan, long-time activist and cartoonist, has waited her entire life for the American people to rise up. Sparked by uprisings around the world, a new movement bursts onto the national scene against a system that denies the people a decent life and puts the planet at risk. With delightful full-color drawings, interviews, dialogue, description, and insightful reflections, this book chronicles the first several months of the fragile and contradictory movement. It situates detailed personal experiences and representative narratives within the broad context of a truly unique and historical global conjuncture. This book will stand as a record of the emerging movement in accessible comics form.


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Can a cartoonist and millions of random strangers change the world? The initial stages of their attempt are chronicled in this book of comics-journalism and written observations. Stephanie McMillan, long-time activist and cartoonist, has waited her entire life for the American people to rise up. Sparked by uprisings around the world, a new movement bursts onto the national Can a cartoonist and millions of random strangers change the world? The initial stages of their attempt are chronicled in this book of comics-journalism and written observations. Stephanie McMillan, long-time activist and cartoonist, has waited her entire life for the American people to rise up. Sparked by uprisings around the world, a new movement bursts onto the national scene against a system that denies the people a decent life and puts the planet at risk. With delightful full-color drawings, interviews, dialogue, description, and insightful reflections, this book chronicles the first several months of the fragile and contradictory movement. It situates detailed personal experiences and representative narratives within the broad context of a truly unique and historical global conjuncture. This book will stand as a record of the emerging movement in accessible comics form.

30 review for The Beginning of the American Fall: A Comics Journalist Inside the Occupy Wall Street Movement

  1. 4 out of 5

    Peggah Ghoreishi

    Enjoyable, thought-provoking, but slightly haphazardly put together. Though, I read this while sick, so the haphazard might have been in my own brain.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Joshum Harpy

    Not quite a comic book, not quite journalistic, not quite a straight forward radical/leftist analysis/critique of Occupy. I really wanted to love this, but it was so busy not quite being any of these things that it never really solidified into something I could sink my teeth into. While I almost entirely agree with McMillan's analysis, I couldn't help but crave something a little more human and emotionally available to play the strengths of the comic medium. Very cool that this exists, though. H Not quite a comic book, not quite journalistic, not quite a straight forward radical/leftist analysis/critique of Occupy. I really wanted to love this, but it was so busy not quite being any of these things that it never really solidified into something I could sink my teeth into. While I almost entirely agree with McMillan's analysis, I couldn't help but crave something a little more human and emotionally available to play the strengths of the comic medium. Very cool that this exists, though. Highly likely that I will keep an eye on McMillan's published output in the future.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Calli

    Man, I went into reading this pretty damn sympathetic to at least some of Occupy's complaints, but this is the most infuriating collection of ignorance, naivete, and condescension. This book is poorly written, poorly organized, and I left it truly unclear about what point the author was trying to make or what the goal of the book was. She identifies as a comic journalist on the cover, but don't think for a second this will be a logical or unbiased book. It's impossibly inflammatory language couc Man, I went into reading this pretty damn sympathetic to at least some of Occupy's complaints, but this is the most infuriating collection of ignorance, naivete, and condescension. This book is poorly written, poorly organized, and I left it truly unclear about what point the author was trying to make or what the goal of the book was. She identifies as a comic journalist on the cover, but don't think for a second this will be a logical or unbiased book. It's impossibly inflammatory language couched as clear-sightedness. It's throwing around catchwords like imperialist or bourgeoisie at the cost of clear statements. It's madness and I found myself wanting to argue with the author on nearly every page. More than anything, I guess it's an unintentional expose of why the movement failed. There is no clear vision, no clear direction, no actual ideas. The entire movement - including the author's viewpoint - is about dismantling a system, but with no actual ideas how and no ideas of what to build in its place. It's a lot of privileged people screaming about a broken system so they can feel righteous and then going home and congratulating themselves for making a speech. I realize how biased this sounds, but I was one of these people. I've marched in protests. I get loud (and passionate) about social causes. I will engage in a ton of debates and take action. My problem is with this exact thing: an elitist and condescending way of talking about problems designed to keep less educated people or those using the wrong buzzwords out of the discussion; a list of complaints with no solutions and no benchmarks of what success would be; a movement with no apparent organization or purpose beyond "yell about being mad about...things."

  4. 4 out of 5

    Zakk Flash

    The Beginning of the American Fall A Comics Journalist Inside the Occupy Wall Street Movement Text and Art by Stephanie McMillan 144 pp. Seven Stories Press. $16.95 Release: 13 November 2012 Book Review: Stephanie McMillan’s ‘The Beginning of the American Fall’ By Dr. Zakk Flash Stephanie McMillan, along with her illustrated comrades, recounts the burgeoning influence, successes, and failures of the global justice movement and Occupy Wall Street in particular, from hopeful inception to uncertain future The Beginning of the American Fall A Comics Journalist Inside the Occupy Wall Street Movement Text and Art by Stephanie McMillan 144 pp. Seven Stories Press. $16.95 Release: 13 November 2012 Book Review: Stephanie McMillan’s ‘The Beginning of the American Fall’ By Dr. Zakk Flash Stephanie McMillan, along with her illustrated comrades, recounts the burgeoning influence, successes, and failures of the global justice movement and Occupy Wall Street in particular, from hopeful inception to uncertain future in her latest graphic novel, the Beginning of the American Fall. The novel attempts to encapsulate the early days of the movement (and the artist’s own radical roots) through expertly illustrated comics and connective essays. Winner of the “poor man’s Pulitzer,” the 2012 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, the book’s illustrations and text follow McMillan from her beginnings as an environmentally-conscious college activist to her growing radical awakening. Narrated by McMillan (and placing her firmly in the action), the story weaves together the artist's own sensitive reflections with sociopolitical context. McMillan herself comes across as a participant of great optimism and enthusiasm, tracing the arc of her own expectations with the movement’s limitations. Even as the social movements of the current era draw heavily on the experiences of the sixties in terms of slogans and courses of action, the medium of this book brings clarity and accessibility in an art form that captured the political and cultural foment of that period for a good number of today’s activists. While not precisely in the spirit of irreverent, anti-capitalist underground comix like Zap, the artwork does succeed in capturing the energy and emotion of Occupy Wall Street and its precursors in a style that is both engaging and clear. McMillan is no stranger to this type of illustrated social commentary; she’s drawn and overseen the syndication of the daily Minimum Security strip since 1999 as well as the acclaimed Code Green weekly. Her work as an activist with One Struggle, Hands of the Haitian People Coalition, and Stop the Machine provide her work as an artist a voice more directly empathetic than the newspapers, even as they cover the same events. McMillan is a gifted illustrator and the Beginning of the American Fall succeeds as a profoundly honest graphic primer but the work is not without its own limitations. The panels, which are colorful and often hopeful, fail to capture the messiness of radical movement building and the insanity of the capitalist death spiral. The pared-back visual style relies too heavily, at times, on accompanying observations to drive the message home. Fawning platitudes from peripheral characters on the nature of resistance seem to blunt the story somewhat, especially in regards of what is to be done. Nonobjective writing gives way to promotion of other activists and their work. Perhaps this is to serve as introduction but often it seems more like simple sponsorship. The condensed format of the book makes it difficult to overcome some of these barriers but McMillan succeeds admirably in her analysis and explanation of the global justice movement, making these issues insignificant in the whole of the work. No one claims this volume to be definitive. While it is tempting to criticize the book for what it does not include, the subtle, yet powerful story presents a compelling and persuasive argument for justice. As biographical narrative, the story is a sympathetic portrayal of an attempt towards an egalitarian, bohemian, and completely rebellious future. Snippets from speeches and books incorporated into the narrative provide an opportunity for an engaged audience to seek more. The visual approach and accessibility of the work provides a jumping-off point that is simple, honest, and an insight into the cultural impulses of the moment. McMillan’s tale is generally more interested in the human story than official documentation. It isn’t a comprehensive examination but one that dissects a system that has increasingly been shifting wealth upwards. The Beginning of the American Fall steers clear of the gentrified graphic novel trap, daring to repudiate capitalism while knocking those who use populist sloganeering without deeper analysis. McMillan gamely identifies reformist attempts to make a gentler capitalism as a palliative to nullify radicalization and should be commended. Occupy Wall Street has elicited wildly divergent opinions as to what the movement means in the short-run and what the future portends. With nimble illustration and idealistic wonder, Stephanie McMillan has contextualized her personal insight on the movement and what it means for planetary survival, egalitarianism, and real human freedom. She’s made a damn good read while doing so. _________________________________________________________ Dr. Zakk Flash is an anarchist political writer, radical community activist, and editor of the Central Oklahoma Black/Red Alliance (COBRA). This review was first published in the IWW’s Industrial Worker. Find more about the Central Oklahoma Black/Red Alliance (COBRA) at www.facebook.com/COBRACollective

  5. 4 out of 5

    Penelope

    I liked this book because it added a lot of context to the Occupy movement in terms of where it came from, what organizations are involved, behind-the-scenes discussions, and the trials and tribulations of this social movement (logistically and ideologically). It's interesting to read and gives you a perspective that the main stream media simply can't (of course). I guess my main gripe is that it isn't longer. I wanted something more detailed, with a more in-depth narrative. This is a graphic nov I liked this book because it added a lot of context to the Occupy movement in terms of where it came from, what organizations are involved, behind-the-scenes discussions, and the trials and tribulations of this social movement (logistically and ideologically). It's interesting to read and gives you a perspective that the main stream media simply can't (of course). I guess my main gripe is that it isn't longer. I wanted something more detailed, with a more in-depth narrative. This is a graphic novel of ideas. Although there are people with names, there aren't really what I would call "characters" although McMillan of course is the "protagonist" who guides us through the whole thing. Maybe I was craving something that is more of a traditional graphic novel with a plot (based in reality and on facts but tailored to the format so that the ideas have an interesting plot as their vehicle). As it is, it's part third-person narrative of the movement as a whole and part first-person diary of events and ideas. A part of me liked that, and a part of me wished that it was one or the other and not both. There are sections of text distributed throughout the visual narrative. I wish these ideas had been integrated into the "plot"/visual narrative, as I think it would have made them more interesting and understandable. McMillan includes quite a few charts which I didn't think added anything...there was one chart that I thought was meaningful and clarified some points for me, but most of them just take up space. Anyway, overall I liked the content of this book but wasn't as impressed by the presentation. I just wish it had been longer and had taken better advantage of the graphic novel format, which I think can be really powerful when used well.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Harris

    Thought that this would be an appropriate read for the first of May. While I am not an activist myself, I was always deeply sympathetic of the Occupy movement and supportive of my friends and acquaintances who worked and continue to work with it, so I was very interested in reading about Stephanie McMillan's experience in Occupy Wall Street, through her stylish, colorful, comic account. Sadly, I did not like it nearly as much as I hoped. Following the enthusiastic rise of Occupy Wall Street in 2 Thought that this would be an appropriate read for the first of May. While I am not an activist myself, I was always deeply sympathetic of the Occupy movement and supportive of my friends and acquaintances who worked and continue to work with it, so I was very interested in reading about Stephanie McMillan's experience in Occupy Wall Street, through her stylish, colorful, comic account. Sadly, I did not like it nearly as much as I hoped. Following the enthusiastic rise of Occupy Wall Street in 2011 and McMillan's participation at Occupy Fort Lauderdale, it alternates idealism and the struggle to reach consensus in the face of sectarianism, such as fears that engaging in foreclosure protest would constitute "encouragement" of the concept of "private property." Less than a comic record of this extremely diverse movement and its varied goals and demands in fighting against industrial capitalism, "The Beginning of the American Fall" is much more a political pamphlet for the author's own brand of radical political philosophy. Even if I am on board with many of her arguments and beliefs regarding the unsustainability of capitalism in the ecosystem and the need for change, some of her points strike me as a little questionable; "we need to go back to the land" or "elderly Maoists in China are supporting us!" In spite of a few flow charts, little is explained about how this revolution could be implemented. Still, some good food for thought, especially when thinking about what revolution could look like and, at worst, could be called preaching to the choir.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Bumiller

    I love her illustrations, and I very much appreciate what she is doing here, more people need to be writing about this stuff, but it was a little bit of a let down. The written content of this book is just not conveyed in an interesting way. Also, it always leaves a bad taste in my mouth when people speak about revolution without addressing the inherent problem with the subject: Revolutions come into existence to replace a power structure with another, different power structure. What will that n I love her illustrations, and I very much appreciate what she is doing here, more people need to be writing about this stuff, but it was a little bit of a let down. The written content of this book is just not conveyed in an interesting way. Also, it always leaves a bad taste in my mouth when people speak about revolution without addressing the inherent problem with the subject: Revolutions come into existence to replace a power structure with another, different power structure. What will that new power structure consist of? And should it exist at all? On the whole, this is an important book because of the issues it raises and the incite it gives into the Occupy Movement. I'd say go ahead and give this one a read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Mishap

    As good a resource as any for a general view of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, the spread of the organizing around the country, and one person's interaction with it. She does a good job of capturing the protests and illustrates the range of issues and ideas that flowed from the people involved--mainly by drawing them having conversations. In addition, there are several well-reasoned essays and illustrations of why capitalism must be abolished and the dire threats we face. I fear this may suffer As good a resource as any for a general view of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, the spread of the organizing around the country, and one person's interaction with it. She does a good job of capturing the protests and illustrates the range of issues and ideas that flowed from the people involved--mainly by drawing them having conversations. In addition, there are several well-reasoned essays and illustrations of why capitalism must be abolished and the dire threats we face. I fear this may suffer from the old conundrum: those who are against Occupy and similar protests will find this didactic and wrong; those inclined to agree already know and will look for things to quibble about.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Emilia P

    Flurghhhh. As The World Burns is still one of my very favorite comics, a manifesto about how all the little things we do to save the earth mean less than nothing when corporations don't shape the f up and in fact continue to be worse and worse. Yes! But this felt like little more than a nit-picky bone to pick with other people in the Occupy Movement and felt distracted and distracting rather than manifesto-y itself. It actually felt discouraging about radical politics rather than being the rally Flurghhhh. As The World Burns is still one of my very favorite comics, a manifesto about how all the little things we do to save the earth mean less than nothing when corporations don't shape the f up and in fact continue to be worse and worse. Yes! But this felt like little more than a nit-picky bone to pick with other people in the Occupy Movement and felt distracted and distracting rather than manifesto-y itself. It actually felt discouraging about radical politics rather than being the rallying cry the title might suggest. I mean...it's all hypothetical for me. But Stephanie! Cmonnnn.

  10. 4 out of 5

    VeganMedusa

    An interesting look at the Occupy Wall Street movement, from the inside. It's not an in-depth account, but it's interesting to see one person's experiences. And it points to why it's so hard to get a revolution started and keep it going. Running meetings in a fair and democratic way makes it difficult to get any agreement. I hope she doesn't give up - there need to be people like her working to change the world. I'll be at home baking cupcakes if anyone needs me. What? - no revolution will succe An interesting look at the Occupy Wall Street movement, from the inside. It's not an in-depth account, but it's interesting to see one person's experiences. And it points to why it's so hard to get a revolution started and keep it going. Running meetings in a fair and democratic way makes it difficult to get any agreement. I hope she doesn't give up - there need to be people like her working to change the world. I'll be at home baking cupcakes if anyone needs me. What? - no revolution will succeed without cupcakes!

  11. 4 out of 5

    River

    This book covers a bit of the history of Occupy Wall Street and the larger Occupy phenomenon. It contains a bit about the origins but primarily focuses on one organizer's (Stephanie McMillan) experiences. It's very much rooted in Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) style politics and analysis and also manages to include bits about Deep Green Resistance (DGR) -- none of which is all that relevant to Occupy. This book covers a bit of the history of Occupy Wall Street and the larger Occupy phenomenon. It contains a bit about the origins but primarily focuses on one organizer's (Stephanie McMillan) experiences. It's very much rooted in Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) style politics and analysis and also manages to include bits about Deep Green Resistance (DGR) -- none of which is all that relevant to Occupy.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    An interesting look at the early days of the Occupy movement, told in graphic novel form (mostly). I have to say though that what I ended up taking away from this was a sense of the futility of the fight against "The Machine." Sigh. An interesting look at the early days of the Occupy movement, told in graphic novel form (mostly). I have to say though that what I ended up taking away from this was a sense of the futility of the fight against "The Machine." Sigh.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Charles

    Good book by Ms. McMillan. Quick read about the emergence of the Occupy movement, what steps we can take next, as well as a very nice concise and simple explanation as to why capitalism doesn't work. Good book by Ms. McMillan. Quick read about the emergence of the Occupy movement, what steps we can take next, as well as a very nice concise and simple explanation as to why capitalism doesn't work.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Micah

    It was an interesting way to learn more about the Occupy movement. It seems to be coming more from the perspective of one of the organizers, so I'm not sure how much of the ideology in the book was also held by any average occupier. It was an interesting way to learn more about the Occupy movement. It seems to be coming more from the perspective of one of the organizers, so I'm not sure how much of the ideology in the book was also held by any average occupier.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Fascinating, troubling, inspiring, and delusional. I kept reading it thinking through the possible responses of people I know, and recalling a youthful fantasy that, one day, we would need no money.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tim Hawkins

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dork Nerd

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gerard Law

  20. 5 out of 5

    Amanda BeReckonedwith

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

  22. 4 out of 5

    Whitney

  23. 5 out of 5

    Almzi

  24. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Collins

  25. 4 out of 5

    Saskia Reijmer

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mike

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sara

  28. 5 out of 5

    Desirée

  29. 5 out of 5

    Chad Clark

  30. 4 out of 5

    Viola

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