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Flying Kites: A Story of the 2013 California Prison Hunger Strike

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A beautifully illustrated graphic novel about resilience, forgiveness, hope, and what it means to find your own voice behind prison walls After guards find a book in his cell containing the pencilled name of a suspected gang member, Rodrigo Santiago is "validated" for gang affiliation and sent to indefinite solitary confinement in the Pelican Bay State Prison Secure Housing A beautifully illustrated graphic novel about resilience, forgiveness, hope, and what it means to find your own voice behind prison walls After guards find a book in his cell containing the pencilled name of a suspected gang member, Rodrigo Santiago is "validated" for gang affiliation and sent to indefinite solitary confinement in the Pelican Bay State Prison Secure Housing Unit, or SHU. Life in the SHU is monotonous, isolating, and enraging. It literally drives prisoners insane. Rodrigo resolves to survive. He struggles to maintain a connection to his daughter, Luz, through letters that are his only happiness. As Luz grows up, though, she presses Rodrigo for more insight into his daily life. She wants the real him. Willing to give her anything she asks, but finding himself at a loss for words, Rodrigo makes a mistake that threatens to destroy the trust between them. Meanwhile a bold, state-wide hunger strike in California prisons gathers force. Gang enmities are set aside. Improbable alliances are forged. Activists and prisoner families organize on the outside. Finding herself increasingly politicized over this issue, Luz fears she can never help her dad. Rodrigo fears he 's lost his daughter forever. On opposite sides of the prison walls they fight to end the torture of endless isolation. Based on the events of the historic 2013 California prison hunger strike, Flying Kites is a story about resilience, forgiveness, hope, and what it means to find your own voice.


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A beautifully illustrated graphic novel about resilience, forgiveness, hope, and what it means to find your own voice behind prison walls After guards find a book in his cell containing the pencilled name of a suspected gang member, Rodrigo Santiago is "validated" for gang affiliation and sent to indefinite solitary confinement in the Pelican Bay State Prison Secure Housing A beautifully illustrated graphic novel about resilience, forgiveness, hope, and what it means to find your own voice behind prison walls After guards find a book in his cell containing the pencilled name of a suspected gang member, Rodrigo Santiago is "validated" for gang affiliation and sent to indefinite solitary confinement in the Pelican Bay State Prison Secure Housing Unit, or SHU. Life in the SHU is monotonous, isolating, and enraging. It literally drives prisoners insane. Rodrigo resolves to survive. He struggles to maintain a connection to his daughter, Luz, through letters that are his only happiness. As Luz grows up, though, she presses Rodrigo for more insight into his daily life. She wants the real him. Willing to give her anything she asks, but finding himself at a loss for words, Rodrigo makes a mistake that threatens to destroy the trust between them. Meanwhile a bold, state-wide hunger strike in California prisons gathers force. Gang enmities are set aside. Improbable alliances are forged. Activists and prisoner families organize on the outside. Finding herself increasingly politicized over this issue, Luz fears she can never help her dad. Rodrigo fears he 's lost his daughter forever. On opposite sides of the prison walls they fight to end the torture of endless isolation. Based on the events of the historic 2013 California prison hunger strike, Flying Kites is a story about resilience, forgiveness, hope, and what it means to find your own voice.

30 review for Flying Kites: A Story of the 2013 California Prison Hunger Strike

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rod Brown

    As part of a class project, Stanford University students produced this historical fiction to help educate about the abuses of solitary confinement in California and most American prison systems. Amongst the true events of the 2013 prisoner hunger strike intended to draw attention to the problems, the creative team has tucked in a little inspirational story about a daughter's relationship with her imprisoned father. I like the information and spirit, even if the writing is a little unpolished at t As part of a class project, Stanford University students produced this historical fiction to help educate about the abuses of solitary confinement in California and most American prison systems. Amongst the true events of the 2013 prisoner hunger strike intended to draw attention to the problems, the creative team has tucked in a little inspirational story about a daughter's relationship with her imprisoned father. I like the information and spirit, even if the writing is a little unpolished at times. My main reservation is the varying quality of the artwork, produced by two or more different artists, only one of whom I would consider good. It's particularly jarring when two different artists are featured on the same two-page spread, each depicting the same character in their own distinct manner. This book and two other recent books in the Stanford Graphic Novel Project are available to read digitally for free at https://graphicnovel.stanford.edu/books.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Elliott

    Haymarket Books runs a great program. For $30 a month you can get a print and digital copy of every book they publish in addition to a 50% discount on all their other books. There are less expensive options which include just digital copies and the discount but I enjoy the books Haymarket puts out, and I am fortunate to be able to afford the monthly $30. I would encourage anyone reading my review to look into this program, and if you can afford it I would highly recommend starting a subscription Haymarket Books runs a great program. For $30 a month you can get a print and digital copy of every book they publish in addition to a 50% discount on all their other books. There are less expensive options which include just digital copies and the discount but I enjoy the books Haymarket puts out, and I am fortunate to be able to afford the monthly $30. I would encourage anyone reading my review to look into this program, and if you can afford it I would highly recommend starting a subscription. If nothing else $30 per month buys a lot more than the cover prices of all the books that are included. My copy of Flying Kites arrived courtesy this subscription. You have the option to opt out of any of the books published monthly although I never have because I wouldn’t have necessarily chosen to read a lot of the books had they not come courtesy Haymarket. Flying Kites is a good example. I generally don’t read a lot of graphic novels and so I wouldn’t have found this book browsing on my own. Yet, this was another solid installment courtesy Haymarket Books. The artistry is deceptively simple. There’s actually a great amount of detail and feeling contained in every panel. The story itself is a simple one and a short one but so well done.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Natalie Park

    4.5 stars. Shines a light on a practice that is so inhuman. I also just discovered the Stanford graphic novel project and love it!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Joshua McCoy

    4.5 rounded up to 5. My first graphic novel as an adult. The last one I read was _Maus_ in high school. This was a great account of the 2013 california prison hunger strike with peaked at 30,000 prisoners across 34 prisons. The conditions of prisoners is beyond cruel, but secure housing units (SHU), or solitary confinement, are downright diabolical. This graphic novel covered so much ground: dynamics of family life; mental health; violence and domination; and prison organizing. The combination or na 4.5 rounded up to 5. My first graphic novel as an adult. The last one I read was _Maus_ in high school. This was a great account of the 2013 california prison hunger strike with peaked at 30,000 prisoners across 34 prisons. The conditions of prisoners is beyond cruel, but secure housing units (SHU), or solitary confinement, are downright diabolical. This graphic novel covered so much ground: dynamics of family life; mental health; violence and domination; and prison organizing. The combination or narrative and illustrations was fantastic. Easy to read, but no less substantive. Even more impressive considering this is the result of a collaborative class project from the 2019 Stanford Graphic Novel project, produced in only a matter of months. The only thing I would’ve liked to see is a more overt political angle considering prison reform is an inherently political subject. For instance, an analysis of prisons as being necessarily violent and needing to be abolished would’ve been very fitting. If there was a minor character who was pushing for this more radical demand, that would’ve also given a chance for the story to include the prison abolitionists who were part of the organizing. All in all, great, quick read. I do recommend.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jamila Mikhail

    It’s actually a penpal from San Quentin who lived through this hunger strike that recommended this book to me and I’m glad that I read it. This graphic novel was beautifully written and illustrated but a tad short for my taste especially for a book that deals with such a deep and important topic. The artwork was excellent, entertaining from beginning to end. The story too was captivating and I actually read the book in one sitting. I particularly appreciated the real world statistics at the end It’s actually a penpal from San Quentin who lived through this hunger strike that recommended this book to me and I’m glad that I read it. This graphic novel was beautifully written and illustrated but a tad short for my taste especially for a book that deals with such a deep and important topic. The artwork was excellent, entertaining from beginning to end. The story too was captivating and I actually read the book in one sitting. I particularly appreciated the real world statistics at the end of the book. Whatever your reason is to want to pick up this novel, it’s very educational and you won’t be left feeling indifferent by the time you reach the end.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Raven Black

    Regardless of personal feelings of the legal system, or the rights/privileges you feel a prisoner deserves due to crimes committed verses what we'd consider an "innocent confinement", this is an eye opening project of how one of the largest hunger strikes shined light on a nation and on the use of solitary confinement as a punishment and the treatment of prisoners. This is not set in a country we'd assume had human right atrocities, but in California, USA 2013. Extras including more background, Regardless of personal feelings of the legal system, or the rights/privileges you feel a prisoner deserves due to crimes committed verses what we'd consider an "innocent confinement", this is an eye opening project of how one of the largest hunger strikes shined light on a nation and on the use of solitary confinement as a punishment and the treatment of prisoners. This is not set in a country we'd assume had human right atrocities, but in California, USA 2013. Extras including more background, interview, biographies and other books created included.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Matt Sautman

    A neat graphic novel to come out from the Stanford Graphic Novel project, this student authored piece of historical fiction tells the story of the real 2013 California Prison Hunger Strike against the systematic mistreatment of prison inmates. While the art definitely reflects the student nature of the project, the quality storytelling immerses the reader in a piece of recent history they likely are unfamiliar with.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Seth

    very illuminating book from a very cool project and a very rad publisher

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lena

    This book does such a great job talking about a huge and heart breaking issue. i learned a lot from this and it also coincidentally made me feel like i have to go to stanford so i can take this class

  10. 5 out of 5

    kat

    stunning work, although read with a heavy heart.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Diane

  12. 5 out of 5

    Laura Applebee

  13. 5 out of 5

    D Coulombe

  14. 5 out of 5

    Skyler

  15. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

  16. 4 out of 5

    Katie Barrett

  17. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa Evers

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sean Denicola

  19. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Sola

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kate

  21. 5 out of 5

    Martin

  22. 5 out of 5

    Emily Chao

  23. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

  24. 4 out of 5

    Librarian

  25. 4 out of 5

    Richard Chciuk

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dufus

  27. 5 out of 5

    Paulina

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kaid

  29. 4 out of 5

    ArchaeoLibraryologist

  30. 5 out of 5

    Grace

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