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[Saturday Reads | #LitWorld2018GB] My Literary Journey Has Now Taken Me To Iraq

Poppies Of Iraq CoWritten by Brigitte Findakly & Lewis Trondheim.


Myra here.

Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just book love miscellany in general.

It is nearly the end of 2018 and I am glad to share that I am making fairly good progress with the Literary Voyage Around The World Reading Challenge that we are hosting this year. Thus far, this is my 49th book – a title that has brought me all the way to Iraq, a country I probably would not be able to visit – if not for this graphic novel memoir.

Poppies Of Iraq

CoWritten by Brigitte Findakly & Lewis Trondheim Drawn by Lewis Trondheim Coloured by Brigitte Findakly Translated by Helge Dascher
Published by Drawn & Quarterly (2017)
ISBN: 1770462937 (ISBN13: 9781770462939)
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Findakly begins her graphic novel memoir with a memory fragment of what their family usually does on a Friday: a picnic outside of Mosul, as she plays around with a ball at the archaeological site of Nimrod. The ancient stones are destroyed now, the only thing that remains is the scent of poppies that used to litter the ground.

This is a recurrent theme throughout the memoir: things that used to be but aren’t anymore: from treasured objects to people’s joy and ideals.

I appreciated the inclusion of actual photographs, rendering an eerie sense of authenticity to the narrative, despite the fact that I felt far removed from the story – maybe because of its seemingly disconnected and fragmented nature. Unlike Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis that has a cinematic and personalized quality to it (see Fats’ review here), I felt detached from this narrative, even as I sympathized with the increasing feelings of dread and anxiety.

I felt a flatness and unemotional vibe to it, even as it attempted to highlight very real feelings of loss, longing, and sense of displacement. Perhaps it was the author’s attempt to remain objective to the story, building in layers of invisible walls, allowing her to see her own narrative from a clear-sighted outsider’s eye, which is how I basically perceived it – disallowing me from truly entering into its world of pain and deracination.

Perhaps if I read it again, at a different juncture in my life, I would see something that I may have missed, a nuance that I should have sensed. Regardless, it is a good introduction to the landscape of Iraq, its varied people, and the divisiveness that eventually drove the entire country apart.

#LitWorld2018GB Update: Iraq – 49 (of target 40)

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

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