It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.
For our current reading theme, I made sure that I will feature quite a number of comic books set in the Middle East. I find that they portray a level of truth that is quite unparalleled, as can be seen in these two graphic novel memoirs.
Written and Illustrated by: Leila Abdelrazaq
Published by: Just World Books, 2015 ISBN: 1935982400 (ISBN13: 9781935982401). Literary Award: Palestine Book Awards Nominee for Shortlist (2015). Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.
I am pretty familiar with narratives from Palestine, thanks to Joe Sacco and Naomi Shihab Nye. Baddawi adds to the growing body of Palestinian literature on the struggles of what it’s like to have one’s entire life and home taken from you, yet remain upright and hopeful nonetheless.
As the author explained, while this is about the tale of her father growing up and fleeing from his hometown, Safsaf, in Palestine – it also contains echoes of other people’s stories:
This story is about one individual, but its anecdotes are uttered in countless families, at children’s bedsides, late at night. We stir the tales into our coffee with cardamom, and read our return in the grounds. That’s because for Palestinians, preservation of the past is an act of resistance. It reminds us that we must continue to struggle, until liberation and return.
Perhaps what sets this story apart for me is how Ahmed, Leila’s father, is portrayed as someone who sought refuge from libraries and his studies. He did not allow his current life circumstances to define him and his future:
It is a testament to the amazing resilience of a people, who despite their being stateless, manage to endure, survive, and eventually transcend the cluster bombs, the ‘bedouin’ life style, and the constant uncertainty that being in a state 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 a bit differently.
Dare To Disappoint: Growing Up In Turkey
Written and Illustrated by: Özge Samanci
Published by: Margaret Ferguson Books, Farrar Straus Giroux, 2015 ISBN: 0374316988 (ISBN13: 9780374316983). Literary Award: New York Book Show Award (2016), Middle East Book Award (2016). Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.
The story begins with the author’s characterization of what life was like when she was a very young girl, envious of her older sister’s attending first grade in a big school right across their home in Turkey. There is this impatience in her to grow up, to prove her worth, and to please the adults around her. I especially liked how she portrayed the way they were conditioned into worshiping Ataturk (otherwise known as the Father of Turks) in school:
The author’s depiction of censorship, random violence, and the regimented control established by the state is also done in such a personal way, that it makes one regard the narrative as an authentic, lived experience rather than a dry or detached historical accounting of what Turkey was like during the 1980s.
There is also humour that is almost self-deprecating (the fascination with the TV series Dallas just made me laugh out loud)…
.. and a portrayal of what it’s like to grow up poor, done in a matter-of-fact, comic-but-tragic fashion that reminded me just a little bit of Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (see the image below to see the parallels):
There is something about this book that simply appealed to me. It must be Özge’s evidently-free spirit, her continual desire to please her father (and be just a bit more like her achiever older sister), her bright orange hair, and her creative soul that simply made me gravitate towards her. It is a story of rediscovering Jacques Cousteau at a time when she can finally dare to disappoint and be who she is meant to be. This is a not-to-be-missed graphic novel.