A work of visual nonfiction about three generations of an Apache family struggling to protect sacred land from a multinational mining corporation, by MacArthur “Genius” and National Book Award finalist Lauren Redniss.
Naelyn Pike, a skateboard aficionado and teenage Apache activist, arrived in Washington in 2013 to testify before Congress ... She was speaking that day to a Senate subcommittee about the fate of Oak Flat, a vast plot of southeastern Arizona that is sacred to the San Carlos Apaches and lies above one of the largest known untapped veins of copper in the United States ... Pike’s personal and political coming-of-age unfolds throughout Oak Flat, the masterly new illustrated book by the artist and writer Lauren Redniss, in which she follows the continuing fight between the San Carlos Apaches and Resolution Copper ... Redniss weaves together the fraught history of copper extraction, along with Pike’s narrative and those of others in her community, into a brilliant assemblage of words and images. She pulls from an astonishing variety of sources: oral history, legal opinions, anthropological accounts, corporate news releases and careful, firsthand reporting, which she intersperses with her own vibrant and indelible colored-pencil sketches. The result is virtuosic.
Lauren Redniss spent three years reporting from this contested territory for Oak Flat Like her other acclaimed books (which have earned her a MacArthur Fellowship), this one defies easy categorization. An artist and writer, Ms. Redniss has a flair for weaving deep reporting and visual storytelling into immersive and engrossing nonfiction ... Oak Flat is full of sensitive portraits—in both words and vivid drawings—of the Apache families protesting this mine, and the poor residents of nearby Superior who want the jobs a mine would bring ... Ms. Redniss’s writing is clear, dispassionate and heavily footnoted, and she allows her subjects to speak for themselves ... Although the book is less visually arresting than past works, Ms. Redniss’s colorful pencil and crayon drawings capture the surreal beauty of the region, with its rocky canyons and gnarly old-growth trees.
Artist and writer Lauren Redniss creates books like no one else's. She mixes art, design, and rigorous research with a prose style that is at once assertive, journalistic and poetic. The results, though strictly based in fact, seem at once like graphic novels minus the familiar panel format, longform essays enriched by full-page drawings, and plays driven by monologue ... Redniss' Oak Flat: A Fight for Sacred Land in the American West certainly feels expansive ... Oak Flat moves seamlessly between settings, and between voices. This motion puts Redniss' stylistic, empathic, and intellectual gifts on great, and equivalent, display ... Redniss' ability and willingness to erase herself is perhaps more remarkable because she is a highly gifted writer, and a highly flexible one ... On each page, she advocates both subtly and explicitly for patience and respect. She takes to clear heart the fact that the 'contested copper under Oak Flat...is older than the earth itself. A mine [there] would operate for about 40 years.'