Bessie Stringfield
Bessie Stringfield
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Annotation: Recounts the story of the first black woman to be inducted into the American Motorcyclist Association Hall of Fame and the Harley Davidson Hall of Fame.
Catalog Number: #6209051
Format: Paperback
No other formats available
Special Formats: Graphic Novel Graphic Novel
Copyright Date: 2016
Edition Date: c2016
Pages: 122 p.
Availability: Available
ISBN: 1-938486-94-3
ISBN 13: 978-1-938486-94-4
Dewey: 921
LCCN: 2016030231
Dimensions: 26 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
Kirkus Reviews
Being the first woman to ride a motorcycle across the United States did not satisfy Bessie Stringfield; she did it eight times!In a frame narrative to this fascinating biographical tale, a young black woman interviews the elderly Stringfield about her life. Around 1916, Bessie’s father moves his family from Jamaica to Boston, but when he learns of his wife’s terminal illness, he abandons them both. Days later, a white neighbor takes her to an orphanage with kind nuns (the only minor characters from her childhood whose faces readers see). Eventually, the nice white woman who adopts Bessie gives the teen a motorcycle for her birthday—a vehicle Bessie has been dreaming of. Over the years, Bessie travels constantly, marries six times, serves as a civilian motorcycle courier for the military during World War II, becomes a stunt performer in traveling circuses, and earns a nursing degree. Gill uses the graphic format to depict racism creatively and poignantly. He portrays “Old Jim Crow” as flocks of human-sized crows, and the KKK crows wear white sheets (with their beaks sticking through their hoods) as they stage a Georgia cross-burning. When characters call Bessie a racial slur, Gill inserts a rebus into the speech bubble, depicting the head of a stereotypical minstrel figure with nappy hair, dark skin, and huge lips, allowing readers to infer the actual language. Such iconic representations make strong statements that need no words. An incredible true story that has as much power as Bessie and the motorcycles she rode. (bibliography) (Graphic biography. 10 & up)
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
Being the first woman to ride a motorcycle across the United States did not satisfy Bessie Stringfield; she did it eight times!In a frame narrative to this fascinating biographical tale, a young black woman interviews the elderly Stringfield about her life. Around 1916, Bessie’s father moves his family from Jamaica to Boston, but when he learns of his wife’s terminal illness, he abandons them both. Days later, a white neighbor takes her to an orphanage with kind nuns (the only minor characters from her childhood whose faces readers see). Eventually, the nice white woman who adopts Bessie gives the teen a motorcycle for her birthday—a vehicle Bessie has been dreaming of. Over the years, Bessie travels constantly, marries six times, serves as a civilian motorcycle courier for the military during World War II, becomes a stunt performer in traveling circuses, and earns a nursing degree. Gill uses the graphic format to depict racism creatively and poignantly. He portrays “Old Jim Crow” as flocks of human-sized crows, and the KKK crows wear white sheets (with their beaks sticking through their hoods) as they stage a Georgia cross-burning. When characters call Bessie a racial slur, Gill inserts a rebus into the speech bubble, depicting the head of a stereotypical minstrel figure with nappy hair, dark skin, and huge lips, allowing readers to infer the actual language. Such iconic representations make strong statements that need no words. An incredible true story that has as much power as Bessie and the motorcycles she rode. (bibliography) (Graphic biography. 10 & up)
Bibliography Index/Note: Includes bibliographical references (p. 120-121).
Reading Level: 7.0
Interest Level: 7-12

Winner: Kirkus Reviews, Best Historical Teen Book of 2016 Imagine a five-foot-two-inch-tall woman riding a Harley eight times across the continental United States. Now imagine she is black and is journeying across the country in the pre-Civil Rights era of the 1930s and '40s. That is the amazing true story of Bessie Stringfield, the woman known today as The Motorcycle Queen of Miami and the first black woman to be inducted into the American Motorcyclist Association Hall of Fame and the Harley Davidson Hall of Fame. Stringfield was a pioneer in motorcycling during her lifetime; she rode as a civilian courier for the US military and founded the Iron Horse Motorcycle Club in Miami, all while confronting and overcoming Jim Crow in every ride.


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