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Balloonless | Jackie Ormes: The First African American Woman Cartoonist

Nancy Goldstein’s Jackie Ormes: The First African American Woman Cartoonist suffers a bit from a lack of access to information.

While the author’s sources include Ormes’ sister and a cartoonist colleague, and her subject was, as she put it, “a saver,” she also notes early on that she didn’t have letters to or from Ormes, a traditional source for what’s going on in a biography subject’s head, nor, apparently, did she have any sort of journal or diary.

The resultant book then is, perhaps, imperfect. Goldstein makes quite clear what an incredible, colorful person Ormes was, and what a fascinating life she lead, but the biographical sections are tantalizing: One may find oneself wanting much more detail, to join Ormes in the newspaper offices or society functions she covered and put on.

And while there is an awful lot of comics art reproduced within its pages, but due to the special and financial limitations of this book (it’s not an archival project, after all) and the simple lack of availability of original art, original newspapers her work was published in, or even copies or microfilm of those papers, much (too much) of Ormes’ work is lost to history.

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