Paying the Land: Book summary and reviews of Paying the Land by Joe Sacco

Paying the Land

by Joe Sacco

Paying the Land by Joe Sacco X
Paying the Land by Joe Sacco
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Book Summary

From the "heir to R. Crumb and Art Spiegelman" (Economist), a masterful work of comics journalism about indigenous North America, resource extraction, and our debt to the natural world.

The Dene have lived in the vast Mackenzie River Valley since time immemorial, by their account. To the Dene, the land owns them, not the other way around, and it is central to their livelihood and very way of being. But the subarctic Canadian Northwest Territories are home to valuable resources, including oil, gas, and diamonds. With mining came jobs and investment, but also road-building, pipelines, and toxic waste, which scarred the landscape, and alcohol, drugs, and debt, which deformed a way of life.

In Paying the Land, Joe Sacco travels the frozen North to reveal a people in conflict over the costs and benefits of development. The mining boom is only the latest assault on indigenous culture: Sacco recounts the shattering impact of a residential school system that aimed to "remove the Indian from the child"; the destructive process that drove the Dene from the bush into settlements and turned them into wage laborers; the government land claims stacked against the Dene Nation; and their uphill efforts to revive a wounded culture.

Against a vast and gorgeous landscape that dwarfs all human scale, Paying the Land lends an ear to trappers and chiefs, activists and priests, to tell a sweeping story about money, dependency, loss, and culture―recounted in stunning visual detail by one of the greatest cartoonists alive.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Sacco's densely composed, meticulous black-and-white art has grown even more realistic and carefully observed in this work...He wisely withdraws his presence to the background, allowing the Dene and other locals he interviews to take the spotlight...Sacco again proves himself a master of comics journalism." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Part of what makes Sacco's portrayal so masterful is his proficiency as a journalist; he uses the real words of Dene citizens to tell their stories, augmenting them with his extraordinary artistic insight. A startling depiction of an Indigenous people struggling to remain true to their traditions. Yet another triumph for Sacco." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Sacco's reporting, accompanied by impressively drawn black-and-white illustrations, is occasionally overwhelmingly detailed, but with good reason: this is a vitally important story about an underrepresented people." - Library Journal (starred review)

"Sacco is a talent entirely unto himself, applying an exquisitely fine eye for detail to the urgent histories that define the world around us...Now, Sacco brings that eye to the lives of the Dene people in the Canadian subarctic, getting the full picture as only he can." - Literary Hub

This information about Paying the Land shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Joe Sacco

Joe Sacco is the author of Footnotes in Gaza, for which he received an Eisner Award and the Ridenhour Book Prize, as well as Palestine, Journalism, Safe Area Goražde (also an Eisner winner), and other books. His works have been translated into fourteen languages and his comics reporting has appeared in Details, the New York Times Magazine, Time, and Harper's. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

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