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New graphic memoir reveals how punk rock helped a younger Black man discover his identification : NPR

James Spooner’s graphic memoir is The Excessive Desert. It tells the story of how he found punk rock, and the way it helped him discover belonging and identification.



For James Spooner, punk rock is extra than simply some style of music or a glance and even an perspective.


GORILLA BISCUITS: (Singing) Inform me who’s pure. Inform me who’s proper. Inform me the final time you fought a good struggle.

CHANG: In reality, it suffuses a lot of his life. He is a tattoo artist, and he directed the 2003 documentary “Afro-Punk,” exploring the roles of African Individuals within the then-overwhelmingly white punk scene within the U.S. And he co-founded the AFROPUNK Competition. Now he can add graphic memoirist to that listing. His new guide is “The Excessive Desert: Black. Punk. Nowhere.” As NPR’s Mallory Yu studies, in it, he tells the story of how he found punk music and, by way of it, his identification.


MALLORY YU, BYLINE: There is a scene early in James Spooner’s memoir the place he is alone, surrounded by containers in his new bed room in a brand new city, feeling significantly sorry for himself. So he places on a cassette tape.


BLACK FLAG: (Singing) Melancholy’s acquired a maintain of me – melancholy.

YU: As he seems to be at an image of the chums and crush he left behind, lyrics to Black Flag’s “Melancholy” splash throughout the panel.


BLACK FLAG: (Singing) I ain’t acquired no buddies to name my very own. I simply sit right here on their own.

JAMES SPOONER: There is not any women that need to contact me. I do not want your sympathy, ? And naturally, that is going to resonate with a 13-year-old.

YU: Particularly as a youngster who’d simply been moved to Apple Valley, a small city within the California desert, discovering himself one of many few Black children in his highschool, a misfit.

SPOONER: I had the standard teenaged angst that’s frequent in most youngsters, however there have been underlying issues taking place in my household. My dad and mom had been divorced. You recognize, I grew up witnessing abuse. And simply issues that, like, in all probability I saved bottled up, punk was an important soundtrack for that.


BLACK FLAG: (Singing) I do not care.

YU: Spooner was largely estranged from his dad, and he was beginning to resent his mom, who, as a white girl, was well-meaning however could not actually perceive her son’s expertise as a Black teen.


BLACK FLAG: (Singing) I do not care. Properly, you are tousled in any case. Do not care. Gonna mess up in any case. Do not care.

YU: On his first day at his new faculty, Spooner meets Ty. Ty was Black, like him, and a punk rocker.

SPOONER: The primary punk I met was Black, however he was scuffling with a number of the similar identification points that I used to be as a result of we lived on this small city with so few folks of shade who had been concerned in something various.

YU: Spooner says befriending Ty gave him a type of permission to be himself. And the guide follows that transformation – when he shaved his head right into a mohawk, went from sporting skater tees and sneakers to leather-based jackets and fight boots, picked up a guitar for the primary time. Spooner says it was enjoyable however type of superficial.

SPOONER: I wasn’t political. I used to be simply, like, a dumb ’80s child sporting these garments as a result of the opposite children had been sporting these garments. And I used to be ripping my T-shirt as a result of I noticed it on no matter video was obtainable to me on the time.


YU: Finally, although, he began listening to extra.

SPOONER: The issues that actually, like, acquired me excited after the preliminary shock of, like, a mohawk wears off was the politics.


FISHBONE: (Singing) One other bourgeois politician hears our pleas however doesn’t pay attention, by no means, by no means, by no means…

YU: Then he visited New York for Christmas break and located an entire new type of punk scene.

SPOONER: I began assembly actually good children who had been getting concerned with riot grrrl or would take me to the communist bookstore sharing zines with me.

YU: They talked about feminism and denounced racism and homophobia, launched him to veganism. And a few of them had been even Black like him.

SPOONER: Assembly Black punks who weren’t compromising their Blackness for his or her punkness, it blew my thoughts. I simply wanted an instance, ? It actually, like, cast the trail that my complete life took from that time on.

YU: The punk subculture helped James Spooner discover belonging and his politics. And he hopes his guide will assist different misfits discover their folks, too.

SPOONER: I feel that what they will get from this guide is a celebration of, like, otherness, a celebration of feeling validated and never alone. So you’ll be able to embrace it, too.


ADOLESCENTS: (Singing) Home of destruction the place the lurkers roamed, home that belonged to all of the homeless children, children of the black gap.

YU: Mallory Yu, NPR Information.


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