BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

The Dead Eye and the Deep Blue Sea: A Graphic Memoir of Modern Slavery by Vannak Anan Prum, edited by Ben Pederick and Jocelyn Pederick [in Booklist]

According to 2016 International Labor Organization data, “at least 40 million people are held in servitude.” Among these modern-day slaves was Vannak Anan Prum, a Cambodian man whose determination to finance his pregnant wife’s impending hospital stay sent him away from their village to find work.

Desperate and vulnerable, Prum is trafficked and sold to a Thai fishing boat. Amid inhumane conditions, Prum finds release in inking elaborate tattoos – with fishhook, soot, and toothpaste – on himself and fellow slaves. Using fish sauce containers as floats, Prum eventually jumps ship, only to be captured and sold to a Malaysian plantation. After five brutal years, an NGO finally enables Prum’s freedom.

A self-taught artist, Prum began to create his stark black-and-white scenes to draw his way home. Since he was missing for so long, his wife was initially too shocked and suspicious to accept his return. His resonant panels become indelible testimony to prove his experiences, not just for his family but also for the rest of the world. In recognition of his work, he ultimately received a State Department Human Rights Defender Award.

YA/Mature Readers: This glimpse into the reality of modern-day slavery provides important lessons in empathetic humanity for mature teens.

Review: “Graphic Novels,” Booklist, July 1, 2018

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2018

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