Stephanie McMillan’s illustrated book looks at her experience as a comics journalist engaged with Occupy Wall Street in 2011. The book intersperses comics of her encounters with printed text explaining philosophies of the movement from McMillan’s perspective. McMillan wasn’t just someone observing Occupy however, but was also a participant traveling around the country to speak at various gatherings over the months it existed. Thus, the book serves as something of an illustrated journal of her experiences as well as providing written thoughts and philosophies on the problems with capitalism and why it must die (as she has stated elsewhere).
The book is a quick read while also, through the use of an appendix, providing practical written content for those wanting to understand the nuances and arguments of what Occupy was about. McMillan does a good job showing how the group encampments operated and how they were an example of collective work in action, as well as the struggles that were faced by members. In that regard, The Beginning of the American Fall also serves as a record of the movement and the hopes that were attached to the power of change at that moment in time.
It’s interesting that despite all the discussions that occurred in regards to the failure of the Occupy movement to truly generate nationwide, large scale support, McMillan has found an appropriate summation in the last cartoon bubble statement by a character in her book: “Occupy is not a working class movement. There’s a problem with the petit bourgeoisie [middle class] trying to lead a workers’ struggle.” Despite one’s opinion on the movement, McMillan has her finger on the pulse of the movement and does a commendable job of not only providing a personal point of view but also giving an educational experience as to what Occupy was about. No matter one’s opinion on the movement, The Beginnings of the American Fall serves as a document of that time period and for that reason is important for anyone wishing to understand what the hell was going on in cities all over the United States the last few months of 2011. –Kurt Morris (Seven Stories Press, 140 Watts St., NY, NY10013)