I find this book so exciting! I love discovering a new artist and I confess that I’m not familiar with Ralph Fasanella’s paintings. Now that Anne Broyles and Victoria Tentler-Krylov have shown him to me so vividly, I will be seeking out his paintings in museums.
It’s such an apropos book for our times. Fasanella grew up in a working-class family, in a tenement, with one parent delivering ice and the other sewing in a factory. His mother was a strong believer in unions, so he grew up with the rhetoric and movement of workers fighting for their rights. With the renewed focus on unions, this is an ideal book to bring into the classroom.
Broyles writes about Fasanella in a way that eloquently shows the challenges he faced as a child and teen, including time in a “reform” school. He had determination and energy and a belief in standing up for what he believed in. I don’t know how a reader could help but feel fired up by the work he did.
Not until he was 31 did Fasanella pick up a pencil to draw. He painted what he saw all around him and he painted from memory. His mind was filled with important details, which he included in his paintings. There is a lot to look at!
In the same way, Tentler-Krylov evokes those paintings with her colorful, extraordinarily detailed illustrations. There is so much color, movement, texture, and empathy in her pages that readers will be moved to understanding. And her faces! Every single person is an individual — you can set off on your own adventure telling their stories.
Extensive back matter is just as exciting as the book’s text and illustrations. Five of Fasanella’s paintings are included (with cited permission, so helpful for students). Photographs show us the Fasanella family and Ralph Fasanella himself.
There is a “Time Line of Ralph Fasanella’s Life” (1914 to 1997), with contextual dates before and after.
Something I’ve never seen done before is “Seeing American History through Fasanella’s Paintings.” The historic event is given and the title of the painting that illustrates that event, as well as the date he created the painting. For example, “Ethel and Julius Rosenberg: Garden Party” (1954), “Gray Day” (1963).
The bibliography and Further Reading sections will be enormously helpful to students and those who want to know more about this artist for the people.
This is an important book. I hope we’ll see more from these two.
Three quotes by Fasanella, which I have now pinned up over my desk:
“I didn’t paint my paintings to hang in some rich guy’s living room. My paintings are about people and they should be seen by people, not hidden away.”
“I just feel that art and politics can’t be separated.”
“You want to be smart, go to the library.”
I’m Gonna Paint: Ralph Fasanella,
Artist of the People
written by Anne Broyles
illustrated by Victoria Tentler-Krylov
Holiday House, 2023
suggested for ages 7 and older
ISBN 978 – 0823450060