Silence of Our Friends

The Silence of Our FriendsThe Silence of Our Friends
By: Mark Long, Jim Demonakos, and Nate Powell
Published By: First Second
Format: Softcover, 6 x 9, 208 pages, Full Color, $16.99
ISBN: 978-1-59643-618-3

"What is past is prologue"
- United State Archive Building -

Everyone should read this graphic novel. And I don't make that statement lightly. Many graphic novels are aimed at or limited to a specific readership. This graphic novel, however, is not. It's the Everyman's graphic novel, for every single reader will benefit.

From the first page to the last page I constantly thought: I can't think of any young adult or adult that would not only benefit, but also grow and mature from reading The Silence of Our Friends: The Civil Rights Struggle was Never Black and White. Based on the real-life experiences of Mark Long, The Silence of Our Friends is a concrete and engaging reminder of what it means to be an American, where all men and all women are free, equal, and absolutely entitled to pursue their own pursuit of happiness. At least that is what we all hope for.

Sadly, however, that ideal has not always been at the forefront of some of our most significantly-tragic historical moments. Set in Houston, Texas in 1968 The Silence of Our Friends tells a story that is unfortunately all too familiar, even if not taught in some schools or libraries that may fear that some of the most intense moments of the civil rights movement of the 1960s could somehow damage or scare modern readers. Focused on the relationship between two families and their father's brewing friendship (local caucasian news reporter Jack and African-American activist and university faculty Larry) the writers of this graphic novel will subtly transfer you back in time. Reminding me of a Toni Morrison novel, The Silence of Our Friends does not aim to get its point across; it doesn't have to. It simply introduces you to two families who, in the public eye, should not be friends. Taking on the risk despite the consequences, both families learn that many of their assumed and misguided impressions of each other are not only wrong but also hateful.  

A model graphic novel for teaching modern readers about the human condition and its potential beauty when recognized, The Silence of Our Friends is on my top ten list of best graphic novels of 2012.

Elements of Story

Plot: When two families, one black and one white, find themselves in the middle of a peaceful civil rights protest on the grounds of their local university (TSU) they must figure out how to overcome the racial, stereotypical norms their neighbors not only find dear, but also want to push onto a younger generation.  

Major Characters: Jack Long and his wife Patricia Long and children Julie Long, Mark Long, Shell/Michelle Long, President Johnson, Bubba, Mike, the University Administration and the Dean, the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), local neighbors, Larry Thompson and his wife Barbara Thompson and children CC/Cecilia and Danny, James, Lauraine & Ben, Samuel Otis, Jim Derrick, Cowboys, Rodeo Queens, Mr. Atwell, the District Attorney, Leon White, Reeve, Gas station customer and attendant, the Preacher, the anonymous truck driver, anonymous hospital woman on phone with her daughter Dana, the Black Panthers, the police, Samantha (the Avon Lady), Bill (Jack’s old army buddy), the protestors, the TSU five, Judge Andrew Boyd and jury, Officer Williams and Officer Anthony Johnson, Mr. Dawson, Miss Radish

Settings: Houston, Texas 1968

Themes: Eyesight, Race, Silence, Being a Person of Conscience, Identity, Relationships, Courage, Civil Rights, Friendship, Truth verse Reality, Perspective

Suggested Literary Pairings: Native Son by Richard Wright, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Reading Common Core Standards Alignment

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
8. Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the       reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.*
*This is the literal Common Core Standard number.

Example Lesson Plan for High School Readers

As an educator I had a hard time narrowing down a single lesson plan for this graphic novel. It's just so good that you could align and create many thoughtful lesson plans. However, at the end of the day, I must select one lesson plan for this review. So here's what I thought would be the most exciting and enlightening lesson plan that was one of many.  

Students often struggle to delineate and thoroughly comprehend texts with not only many characters, but also a multi-dimensional and enlightening plot. This lesson plan will help students to delineate and evaluate all the complex and insightful claims and/or perspectives of the many characters in The Silence of Our Friends.

Directions: Moving horizontally or left-to-right, fill-out each category as it relates to the character on the far left.


Their Perspective

Themes Related to Their Perspective

What Did You Learn from this Character?



Jack Long








Patricia Long








Julie Long








Mark Long








Shell/Michelle Long








President Johnson
























University Administration
























Local Neighbors








Larry Thompson








Barbara Thompson








CC / Cecilia Thompson








Danny Thompson















Lauraine & Ben








Samuel Otis








Jim Derrick
















Rodeo Queens








Mr. Atwell








District Attorney








Leon White















Gas Station Attendant







Gas Station Customer















Anonymous Truck Driver







Anonymous Hospital Woman on Telephone















The Black Panthers















Samantha (Avon Lady)







Bill (Jack's old army buddy)
















TSU Five







Judge Andrew Boyd
















Officer Williams







Officer Anthony Johnson








Mr. Dawson








Miss Radish






When students have completed this table - either in groups or on their own - they need to take one more step. In order to solidify their understandings and comprehension about the significance of character perspective in The Silence of Our Friends ask students to choose four characters and their corresponding theme(s).  Your guiding questions can be:

• Which four characters interested you the most?  
• Why?
• What theme(s) does each character best exhibit (some characters may relate to multiple themes)?

One by one, have students write a paragraph about each of their four character choices, being sure to explain why they choose that character and corresponding themes.

Finally, group students by themes (listed above) and have them discuss their character selections and theme choices. It may be wise to also have a follow-up discussion that involves the entire class.

Katie Monnin, PhD, is an assistant professor of literacy at the University of North Florida and author of Teaching Graphic Novels: Practical Strategies for the Secondary ELA Classroom (2010) from Maupin House. To learn more about Teaching Graphic Novels or Katie Monnin, please go to this link: http://www.maupinhouse.com/monnin.php.