Bryan, Ashley. Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace. Biography. Atheneum/C. Dlouhy, 10/2019. 110pp. $21.99. 978-1-5344-044090-8. OUTSTANDING. GRADES 5-12.
For most of his life, multiple award-winning writer/illustrator Bryan avoided revisiting his experiences as a soldier in WW II because it was too painful for him to remember both the war itself and the unfair treatment of black soldiers during, and after, the war. Fifty years later, however, he decided to re-examine the sketches and paintings he created during his time as a soldier in Europe. Infinite Hope begins with 19-year-old Bryan, an art student attending New York’s Cooper Union on a full scholarship, being drafted in 1943. In a clear, easy-to-follow narrative, Bryan writes about the boredom, hard work, and horrors of war, all through his artist’s eyes. He also details the injustice black soldiers experienced being segregated and mistreated in the Army, even as the European residents in the cities he was stationed in welcomed him and his fellow soldiers as liberators and equals. Through everything, Bryan drew and drew (he kept a sketch pad in his helmet!). Every page is filled with art in a well-balanced design of Bryan’s sketches laid over some of his letters back home (with captions deciphering his hard-to-read handwriting) interspersed with colorful paintings and photos of black soldiers during the war. Infinite Hope gracefully and powerfully intertwines the three vast subjects of art, race, and WW II. Back matter includes personal notes from Bryan, sources, photo and illustration credits, and an index.
Sally Engelfried, Oakland Public Library