Grand Theft Horse

By Booklist

Neri’s graphic biography recounts the work of Gail Ruffu, a talented horse trainer with unorthodox techniques and a deep and abiding affection for her charges. She makes a deal with lawyer Bud Clayton to share ownership of a horse named Urgent Envoy, whom she agrees to prepare for the races. But the deal sours quickly and, fearing for Urgent Envoy’s welfare, Gail recovers the horse from where he’s being illegally held and hides him away. Thus begins a harrowing, years-long journey through a fixed system that heads Gail off at every pass and has no concern for her animal nor any other since it’s charged to protect. Her determination is matched only by Clayton’s rage that ‘some powerless woman was getting the best of him,’ and Gail is deprived of career and home until their case eventually makes it all the way to the California Supreme Court. Neri streamlines personal events of Ruffu’s life, highlighting the central social justice drama to full, agonizing effect. Wilson abets by balancing realism with gently rounded and slightly exaggerated features that foreground the emotional stakes. The graphic novel world isn’t full of true stories about nearly sixty-year-old, women of color who refuse to back down from wealthy, white men exploiting (and further corrupting) a corrupt system. Grand Theft Horse feels all the more timely and urgent because of it.