Steve Sheinkin, erstwhile creator of the wise and hilarious Rabbi Harvey series, has collaborated with Ilan Stavans, Professor of Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College, to produce El Iluminado, a graphic novel distinctive in both subject matter and aesthetic. Chronicling Professor Stavans's (fictional) visit to Santa Fe New Mexico, where he gets caught up in a hunt for secret documents that are tied into the history of the Crypto-Jews. The Crypto-Jews were a (not fictional) group of Jews who were forced to convert to Catholicism in Spain circa 1492. Many of these Jews went through the process of conversion but continued to practice their own religion and handed down their traditions to their posterity. Many people of Latin American descent, it seems, may have a significant Jewish heritage and not even know it.
The story of the Crypto-Jews winds its way through the story of Stavans's quest, plagued with betrayals, hidden messages and religious controversy enough to rival the DaVinci Code. Sheinkin's art puts a unique twist on the tale, with its charmingly exaggerated figures and evocative sense of place, and makes the history (as well as the mystery) breathe with a sense of warmth and life. A fascinating, funny and often-thrilling story.
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