[Nonfiction Wednesday] Zeina Abirached’s “I Remember Beirut”

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Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2015 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, as well as reading challenges that we have pledged to join this year.

Our new reading theme for September – October: Crazy for Comics! Graphic Novel Galore!

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I Remember Beirut

Written and Illustrated by: Zeina Abirached
Published by: Graphic Universe, 2014
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

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“Nothing distinguishes memories from ordinary moments. Only later do they make themselves known, from their scars.” – Chris Marker

I featured Abirached’s Game for Swallows for our War and Poetry Reading theme a year ago. In I Remember Beirut, the author takes us through simple moments gathered from childhood which, as Marker pointed out in the quote I cited above, bear painful scars.

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The recollections vary from Mother’s bullet-riddled car mixed with learning to distinguish colours as a child and a neighbor’s pinkie with the long fingernail to signify manliness:

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I surmise that these may be episodes that did not make the cut for A Game for Swallows which portrayed a more straightforward memoir as compared to I Remember Beirut which consists of Abirached’s repository of fragmented remembrances. While I was not as moved in reading this as compared to the more riveting and decidedly more affecting storytelling in A Game for Swallows, I still appreciated how the author is able to characterize painful episodes of loss, leaving home, and finding refuge through a snakes and ladder game in monochrome – among other graphic representations found here.

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There were also occasional black spaces where certain memories are starkly portrayed in white scribbles – without words, which I sense have great significance for the author:

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This could serve as a great mentor text for young children who may be empowered to write about their own reminiscences from a far-away home as they make a graphic list of things valued, conversations treasured, moments captured.

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Winner, IRA Notable Books for a Global Society, 2015; YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens 2015, Nonfiction; The United States Board on Books for Young People, Outstanding International Books, 2015 Grades 6-8

#AWBRead2015 Update: 83 (35)

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#nfpb2015 Challenge Update: 56 (25)

  1. The black and white illustrations are so powerful! They really make a statement.

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  2. I thought this was such a phenomenal book showing the impact of war on an average family just trying to get by and live their lives.

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  3. I just finished A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen, a different kind of memory, but still the ‘leaving’ meant leaving good memories, too. I hope I can find these, Myra. This one looks so poignant.

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  4. Loved your mentor text suggestion. I’m really enjoying your theme.

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  5. It is amazing to see how authors are using graphica to capture such powerful stories from their lives. Have you read Sunny Side Up by Jenny and Matt Holm? It is a fictional story that also deals with a very difficult issue.

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  6. This is why graphic novels cannot be dismissed. These illustrations are so powerful. Text is not the only way to convey things.

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  7. This looks like an intense, important title Myra!

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  8. […] of war has to offer. While I still preferred Zeina Abirached’s A Game for Swallows and I Remember Beirut, this graphic novel still managed to permeate my consciousness and made me look at the world just […]

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