Fast Enough: Bessie Stringfield's First Ride


Product Details

$17.99  $16.55
Oni Press
Publish Date
12.0 X 10.2 X 0.5 inches | 1.1 pounds

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About the Author

Joel Christian Gill is the chairman, CEO, president, director of development, majority and minority stockholder, manager, co-manager, regional manager, assistant to the regional manager, receptionist, senior black correspondent and janitor of his Strange Fruit Comics. He is the author of Fast Enough: Bessie Stringfield's First Ride from Lion Forge and the award winning graphic novels Strange Fruit: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History and Tales of The Talented Tenth from Fulcrum Publishing. In his free time he is Chair of Comic Arts at the New Hampshire Institute of Art where inspire students to unleash the transformational potential of their stories. Founder of #28daysarenotenough it is his belief that segregating the history of minority peoples lessens the impact these people have made on American society, and culture. Gill has dedicated his life to using stories to rebuild, empathy, compassion and ultimately humanity. As his friends and family say, "He won't shut up about equality, justice and the importance of telling stories, so listen to him so we can binge watch Stranger Things in peace." He received his MFA from Boston University and BA from Roanoke College.


KIRKUS (STARRED) -- Future black female motorcyclist Bessie Stringfield triumphs over boys who say she can't join their daily bike races in this fictional imagining of her childhood. "Have you ever been told you are not enough?" Bessie was. Boys, black and white, are shown telling this darker-skinned girl with very large afro puffs that she isn't "pretty enough" or "tough enough." After school, they race past her, laughing when she says she wants to join them. Downcast, Bessie asks Mama if "girls can ride [bikes] fast," to which Mama replies, "the only one who knows for sure is the Man Upstairs." At bedtime, she asks in prayer, with one eye open, and then falls asleep. In her dream, she rides like magic through vast landscapes and cityscapes, so fast "she even raced up into the night sky." She wakes up ready, and that afternoon, when the boys say "Go!" she zooms past them, astonishing everyone. Dark brown, gold, and neutral tones dominate the captivating scenes, which segue skillfully into paragraphs of backmatter information in smaller font about Stringfield's impressive exploits. She traveled widely on her motorcycle(s) in the mid-20th century, using the Negro Motorist Green Book to stay safe when riding across America. Discrepancies between different versions of her life story are explained as an example of how legends grow. A playful introduction to Bessie's exciting, triumphant, and unforgettable story. (Picture book. 5-9)

THE CLASSROOM BOOKSHELF -- Have you ever been told you are not enough?" With this opening line, author-cartoonist Joel Christian Gill grabs the attention of readers of all ages and introduces us to the legendary Bessie Stringfield, the first African American woman to ride solo across the United States on a motorcycle. In this fictional picture book biography, Gill offers a story of Bessie as a young girl who is told repeatedly that she is "not pretty enough" or "tough enough," or that her "hair was not straight enough" or her "belly was not flat enough." But what most stings and spurs her forward are the boys racing their bikes past her every day after school, telling her that "Girls can't ride bikes!" and that "Girls aren't fast enough!" Unwilling to believe them, Bessie holds fast to her dreams of speeding by on her bike and finds a way to prove the naysayers wrong. Gill's text is cleverly structured, weaving first an imagined narrative that utilizes patterns of repetition to effectively emphasize Bessie's determination, and then transitioning the last third of text to a nonfiction biographical synopsis full of rich details, quotes, and anecdotes. Accompanying the text are Gill's bold illustrations, steeped in bold hues of red, gold, green, and blue. Young Bessie is depicted as strikingly as the woman she became, with gorgeously giant pigtails and large, resolute eyes. Known primarily as a graphic novelist, Gill's picturebook debut smoothly continues his literary and artistic commemoration of little known African American pioneers. Readers of all ages will enjoy the celebration as well.

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY -- A story about a girl who proves she can ride faster than a group of dismissive boys introduces readers to Bessie Stringfield, an African-American motorcyclist active in the 1930s and '40s. The imagined tale centers on her reactions to being "told she was not enough," and its somewhat predictable plot, in which Stringfield shows she is a faster cyclist than thosetaunting her, feels tame compared to her rule-breaking life. A substantial afterword includes details such as how Stringfield "became one of the first women to ride a motorcycle across America" and earned extra money performing in circuses, and notes her penchant for embellishing her own story. Slick, full-color illustrations in a comics style match the story's contemporary sensibility, with whooshing curves showing Bessie's speed and a triumphant, if ahistorical, high-five accented by jagged red emanata.

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL -- PreS-Gr 3-Young readers are introduced to Bessie Stringfield, the famed "Negro Motorcycle Queen," who rode all over the world. The text presents Bessie as a child and encourages readers to consider times when they might have been made to feel inferior in order to understand Bessie's background and appreciate her resilience. Accompanied by read-aloud friendly text, each spread offers unique visual perspectives, expressive characters, and plenty of thrilling action sequences. Bessie was a child in the 1920s and period details such as clothing and automobiles help to establish the setting. The story centers on Bessie's desire to be included in the neighborhood boys' bike races and her determination to disprove their doubts. Emboldened by a dream of riding without fear, Bessie surprises everyone, including herself, when she wins an afternoon race. The back matter consists of an afterword that celebrates the historical significance of Bessie's accomplishments. She rode during a time when it was deemed improper for women to ride motorcycles and when it was dangerous for black people to travel without resources such as the Negro Motorist Green Book by Victor Hugo Green. Additionally, there are conflicting stories about Bessie's childhood, namely her place of birth and her family. In this respect, back matter is severely lacking and would benefit from the inclusion of a bibliography, further reading section, a time line, and even photos of Bessie. VERDICT An inspiring story featuring a compelling historical figure, though scant back matter does give pause; not an essential purchase.