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Review: ‘Unrig: The Broken Systems of U.S. Democracy and How to Fix Them’

Review: Unrig: The Broken Systems of U.S. Democracy and How to Fix Them
Written by Daniel G. Newman, Illustrated by George O’Connor
Teen (13+)
First Second Books, July 2020, ISBN: 9781250295309
288 pgs., $28.99USD

In an interview with George O’Connor, he mentioned his next project was not the final Olympians, but this book. Having enjoyed his work on Olympians, I decided to check it out. It wasn’t at all what I expected, but it is something everyone should read.

Most American agree that there is something wrong with our democracy. It works for the powerful and wealthy but not for the rest of us. How did it come to this? Our country is so divided now that just saying “liberal” or “conservative” can send people into tirades. Unrig is a non-partisan look at our broken democracy. It exposes the twisted roots that started our democracy down this path as well as highlighting the people who are working to unrig the system to return power to where it belongs; with the people.

Unrig is narrated by Daniel Newman, a democracy reform leader and the founder of Maplight.org, a non-profit, non-partisan group that tracks political donations and voting patterns. He speaks in a conversational tone, explaining both the historical roots of things like voting rights and redistricting as well as changes that have occurred in the last 30 years that have affected us the most. He covers several topics from campaign funding, lobbyists, voting rights and voter suppression to dark money, the thing that funds and influences all these other issues. Seeing what has happened laid out in a straightforward way can make things seem bleak, as if there is no hope for fixing what’s been done under our noses.

But this book isn’t all doom and gloom. For all the dark areas, there are rays of light as well. For each topic discussed, Newman has stories of ordinary people taking extraordinary steps to counter the rigging that has been going on. These success stories are filled with hope that things don’t have to stay as they are; that we can bring about change. Changing campaign funding, restoring voting rights, and fighting for transparency in money gifts to universities are all things people have stood up for and made meaningful changes in their area.

George O’Connor illustrates the book, emphasising Newman’s conversational tone as well as adding some humor to some of these humorless topics. The art is dominated by shades of blue and white with color used sparingly to punctate points being made, such as money being green, and Newman’s speech balloons being a darker yellow.

Unrig is the first book in a series of graphic novels called World Citizen Comics that are meant to inform and empower readers to make the change they want happen. And this book does that. Reading it made me angry, depressed and finally hopeful that things can change. Just in the people around me, I heard how they don’t want to vote because nothing changes; that things aren’t going to change. Unrig is the book to counter these claims. It shows us that real change is possible when we stand together and make the effort.

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Lori Henderson About Lori Henderson

Lori Henderson is a mother of two teenage daughters and an avid reader. She blogs about manga at her personal blog Manga Xanadu as well as contributing and editing for Manga Village. She blogs about all things fandom (mainly Doctor Who) at her other personal blog Fangirl Xanadu. She's been at it so for over 5 years now and counting!

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