Black Culture & Identity
Jason Reynolds & Danica Novgorodoff
Long Way Down is a poetic masterpiece. A teenager named Will witnesses his brother get shot in the street, and knows he must follow The Rules and seek revenge. The graphic novel is based on Jason Reynolds’ novel by the same name, but Danica Novgorodoff’s watercolor illustrations add a brilliance that must be experienced to understand.
Wracked with sadness and anger, Will takes his brother’s gun and begins the seven floor descent down the elevator of his apartment building, intent on finding the individual he feels is responsible for his brother’s death. The title of the work itself comes from the elevator ride where Will receives some…unexpected…passengers. What if everything Will has ever known gets called into question right on the precipice of the action he feels required to enact?
Reynolds uses his keen ability to elicit an emotional and raw look into the lives of Will and his neighborhood, where The Rules are passed down but nobody really knows who started them. The greater symbolism and social commentary that Reynolds imbues into his writing touches on the marginalization of the Black community, toxic masculinity, and emotional suppression. This is truly a stunning work, and I love the effortless flow of the illustrations as they combine with Renolds’ lyrical text.
This graphic novel was kindly sent by Simon & Schuster but all opinions and decisions to review are my own.
“Here’s what I know: I know there are a lot — A LOT — of young people who hate reading. I know that many of these book haters are boys. I know that many of these book-hating boys, don’t actually hate books, they hate boredom. If you are reading this, and you happen to be one of these boys, first of all, you’re reading this so my master plan is already working (muahahahahahaha) and second of all, know that I feel you. I REALLY do. Because even though I’m a writer, I hate reading boring books too. “
Danica Novgorodoff is an artist, writer and graphic novelist from Brooklyn, NY and Louisville, KY. Her graphic novels include Long Way Down (adapted from Jason Reynolds’ novel by the same name), The Undertaking of Lily Chen, Refresh Refresh, Slow Storm, and A Late Freeze.
She was awarded a 2015 New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship in Literature, was named Sarabande Books’ 2016 writer in residence, and received a 2020 Café Royal Cultural Foundation grant in literature. Her art and writing have been published in MoMA Magazine, Best American Comics, The Believer, Artforum, Esquire, VQR, Slate, Orion, Seneca Review, Ecotone Journal, The Arkansas International, and others.
Danica’s works in progress include a graphic novel on climate change (First Second Books, in collaboration with journalist Meera Subramanian), a children’s book on the explorer Alexander von Humboldt (Penguin Random House), and a book on rice (Flatiron Books; in collaboration with Harlem chef JJ Johnson). She has been a fellow at the MacDowell Colony, Blue Mountain Center, VCCA, Willapa Bay and Brush Creek.