James Stur­m’s Amer­i­ca: God, Gold, and Golems

James Sturm
  • Review
By – March 30, 2012

Using the themes of faith, greed, and enter­tain­ment, this new com­pi­la­tion of three pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished graph­ic nov­els by James Sturm, founder and direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Car­toon Stud­ies, offers read­ers a unique view of Amer­i­can his­to­ry. The Revival takes place in the ear­ly 1800’s, dur­ing a time when reli­gious sects flour­ished in the shift­ing bound­aries of the Amer­i­can fron­tier. The sec­ond sto­ry, Hun­dreds of Feet Below Day­light, takes place in the late 1800’s, and shows the effects of greed on the lives of min­ers who have lost every­thing to find gold. 

The final sto­ry in the tril­o­gy, The Golem’s Mighty Swing, is the only one with any Jew­ish con­tent. Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in 1998, it fol­lows a trav­el­ing base­ball team, The Stars of David, on their jour­ney through Mid­west Amer­i­ca dur­ing the 1920’s. Faced with grow­ing anti-Semi­tism, a bro­ken bus, and no mon­ey, the cap­tain of the team, Noah The Zion Lion” Strauss, agrees to try a pro­mo­tion­al stunt. By suit­ing up their only African-Amer­i­can play­er as a golem, the team’s gim­mick not only draws crowds, but also vio­lence stem­ming from fear and prej­u­dice. Notes and sources for fur­ther read­ing round out this inter­est­ing trilogy.

Wendy Was­man is the librar­i­an & archivist at the Cleve­land Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry in Cleve­land, Ohio.

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