Title: Red Rosa
Author: Kate Evans
Genre: Biography / graphic novel
Rating: 5 / 5 !!!
So this has definitely been my favorite book of 2016. I discovered it on Goodreads and soon after requested it through the interlibrary loan request of my university (and it was fulfilled by Fordham University, ~3,000 miles away–thanks so much, libraries, you’re the greatest!). And soon as I finished it, I got online to buy a copy for myself so I could share it with my friends and family. To be clear, this is the first book I have bought for myself in rather a long time, I think in over a year–usually I check books out, get them from the many little free libraries around town, get them at thrift stores or buy deeply discounted used copies (I also have an extensive backlog of books I bought years ago or were gifts). I just had to own it, because it’s beautiful. The first person I loaned it to was my social theory professor, and she wants to scan part of it to share with her classical theory classes.
Okay, so what’s it about? Rosa Luxemburg! Who is Rosa Luxemburg, you ask? She was an theorist, philosopher, and revolutionary in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I had never heard of her–but when I told my parents I was reading a book about her, both of them were like “Ohh Rosa Luxemburg, so cool!” I felt like I did that time I decided to check out a VHS called Cosmos and discovered Carl Sagan’s wonderful program about our universe, called them up to gush about it, and they were like “oh yeah I remember that show.” Well why didn’t you share it with me, guys?? Why didn’t you tell about Rosa Luxemburg! Because she is rad.
And not only is Rosa great, but this book is too. Remember when I gave 2.5 stars to the graphic biography of Emma Goldman and cited “the format” as what the issue was? Yeah, well, this is the same “format” but has none of those issues. This book actually covers Rosa’s politics–including an excellent section where Marxist theory is covered as Rosa explains it to her brothers at the dinner table. But the fact that we get great information on Rosa’s politics, opinions, and political projects does not come at the cost of her biography as a person, either. Various relationships are depicted, including good friends, lovers, family, political allies and adversaries, and my favorite–her pet cat, Mimi (Mimi is so adorable, too). Her letters are quoted extensively so we get a great idea of what was going on in her mind. This book also didn’t run into that choppiness I’ve come across in other graphic biographies, where characters and situations are suddenly introduced only to be just as suddenly vanished without explanation. It flows really nicely.
And and and!! There are tons of notes in the back! It’s amazing! For almost every single page, Kate Evans has multiple notes that tell you where she is pulling quotes and events from, and if the “real life” version differs at all from the story in the book, or if she’s speculating and what that’s based on. It’s fantastic. It was so cool to be able to wonder “did that really happen??” and be able to turn to the back (which I did very often) to see that, yes, it did, or information on where the author got her information. She’s pretty meticulous too–there’s a note saying that in the graphic biography, she has Rosa cut her hair in a different year than she cut it in real life. I really appreciate this aspect of the book; it’s thorough and well cited and I know exactly where to find more information should I want it.
Oh and it made me cry too.
Anyway I am so glad I discovered this book and I heartily recommend it. Rosa is an inspiration and her life story is fascinating, remarkable, and touching. I can’t come up with a single complaint about this book which, if you read my reviews often, you will know is quite rare. 😉