Graphic novelist comes to Brockport
Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 11:09
As a part of the Summer Reading Program, the College at Brockport will host author and illustrator Josh Neufeld Sept. 24 at 7:30 p.m. in Tuttle North Gym.
The lecture is part of a string of events that all coincide with New Orleans and Neufeld’s graphic novel A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge.
This is the ninth year a book has been assigned to an incoming freshman class for summer reading.
This years choice marks the first time ever a graphic novel has been shared with students in the program.
Students aren’t required to read or purchase the books. They are given the reading when they come to their freshmen orientation.
“[The students] do seem to like this one,” said Marcy Esler, director of Student Retention at the College at Brockport. “It only takes about a couple of hours, days or a weekend to read.”
Other events held on campus include an art exhibit in the Tower of Fine Arts, a documentary feature called Trouble the Water and lectures by several professors from the school.
Trouble the Water is a documentary that combines ground zero survival footage of a family stuck in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and a film crew’s discussion of the experience with them.
According to Neufeld, he met the filmmakers of Trouble the Water a couple of years ago. Neufeld said they all went out to dinner and exchanged notes on Katrina.
“There is always a program that goes along with it [summer readings], a series of events,” Essler said. “For example, we had a lecture by Alisia Chase, who is an art historian here at the college.
She gave a talk about the history of graphic novels and how graphic novels are especially good at portraying traumatic situations.”
Neufeld has traveled to several colleges within the U.S., including University of Wisconsin, University of Washington and St. Edwards University. He has also travelled to a number of countries in the Middle East.
“People are very engaged [and] often surprised to find that a powerful, real-life story can be told in this form,” said Neufeld.
“I’m touched when I meet students from New Orleans or the Gulf Coast who tell me that the book rings true for them. I’ve had experiences like that when I was on the book tour in New Orleans and Houston.
“Sometimes I regret that I couldn’t show some of the stories I collected from my volunteering experiences in the Gulf Coast but it was determined early on that we would focus the story on the city of New Orleans,” Neufeld said.
According to Neufeld, he traveled to Biloxi, Miss. approximately a month after Hurricane Katrina hit and stayed for three weeks.
He described the profound impact that witnessing a slab of concrete where a house used to be or seeing a riverboat casino embedded into the side of a hotel had on him.
“It was very powerful and eye opening. I had no real sense of the devastation wrought by the hurricane until I saw it for myself.”
“It was also a very inspiring experience, to see the courage of the residents and their determination to reclaim their homes, their good natures, etc. I loved going on my route every day and seeing the same people, checking in with them and getting to know them.
“I also learned so much about volunteerism in America and how called to service some people are, either because of their faith or their connection to the military or just because they feel a civic duty to help those in need,” Neufeld said.
Aside from cleaning up a park, he did some volunteer work in New York City after Sept. 11, 2001.
Working at a clothing collections center, Neufeld and his wife spent time helping to sort donations.
He explained his work in Biloxi as something he didn’t aspire to do, but rather felt it was right and necessary.
“I was so moved by so many people just trapped inside their homes and I felt the government was helpless, so I felt I was driven to do what I can along with everyone else,” said Neufeld. “When your government fails, you rise up together as people to do what you can.”