Words That Sustain Me: Chain-Gang All-Stars artwork

We are honored to share the following art piece by Charles, inspired by this month’s book club pick: Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adeji-Brenyah:

Charles’s Artist Statement:

Chain-Gang All-Stars was a very intense gripping blood about prisoners who have “volunteered” to be gladiators in fight to the death matches held in prison systems in this country. The story in this book serves to remind us that the criminal justice system is not designed to help us better ourselves, but to make us worse.

One thing that struck me was the detail in which the author used in describing the gladiators and the weapons they fought with. For this month’s drawing I was inspired to try and illustrate these weapons.

Loretta Thurwar is the top fighter and she uses a war hammer named “Hass Omaha” and a mace named “Vega.” Both had their handles wrapped in black and gold leather.

Hamara “Hurricane Staxxx” Stacker is the next best fighter and she uses a scythe in her gladiator matches. Its handle is also wrapped in black and gold bolt leather. Her scythe is named “LoveGuile.”

Then there is Hendrix “Scorpion Singer” Young. And his fellow Link, Simon “Unkillable Jungle Man” Craft. The singer uses a black metal spear that is highlighted in gold named “Spinifer Black.” And Jungle Man has two double bladed knives that he wraps his fists around when he fights.

And finally there is the samurai katana named “Sansupuritta” that was first used by Edgerrin “Razor Boatang.” Then by Vanier “Rico Muerte” Reyes.

The crescent moon and ribbon was a format that I imagined that book title written on and then wrapped around the weapons that are part of this story.

The background is magenta colored flames that represent the living hell that all of the gladiators are caught in.

Chain-Gang All-Stars was a disturbing book that grabs ahold of you and won’t let go and tried to illustrate that feeling with my drawing.


8×11″ watercolor paper
Prisma Color Pencils
Ink Pen (letters)
Pastels (background)