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[Saturday Reads] Of Chicken Genocide in Alanguilan’s “Elmer”

"Elmer" by Gerry Alanguilan.

SaturdayReads

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.


I have been meaning to read and feature this graphic novel – both for our comic mania reading theme and for #ReadIntl2020. In fact, I even included this in my #GB101020 as part of my list of ten comic books that I wish to feature for our theme. As we are about to launch our new reading theme for October – December 2020, I am glad I managed to sneak this one in.


Elmer [Amazon | Book Depository]

A Graphic Novel by Gerry Alanguilan
Published by SLG Publishing (2010)
ISBN: 159362204X (ISBN13: 9781593622046). Literary Awards: Prix Asie De La Critique Wiiner for Best Asian Album (2011), Quai des bulles 2011 Grand Prix Ouest France (2011), Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards Nominee for Best Graphic Album – New (2011). Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

Imagine a dystopian world (very easy to do that these days with apocalyptic orange skies and the pandemic) where chickens are sentient beings: talking, thinking, intelligent creatures. This is at the very heart of Alanguilan’s graphic novel. It focuses on Jake, the favourite son of Elmer, one of the first chickens to have developed linguistic skills and rational thought processes.

While the setting demonstrates that the world, as a whole, is generally accepting of the rights of chickens as identical to that of human beings – as mandated by the United Nations, no less – they still experience discrimination and xenophobia (or chicken-phobia, in this case). When Jake inherited the diary of his father, Elmer, who very recently died, he became privy to the events that transpired in the ‘past’ – and the attempts to commit chicken genocide and mass extermination – brought about, largely, by fear and intolerance.

Jake is not a sympathetic character. His predisposition for pornography, especially in the first few parts of the graphic novel, nearly turned me off entirely from reading the whole story. It must be my age – or the very macho-way of describing events, situations, or responding to circumstances – but reading it reminded me of why I read exclusively female authors in 2019.

I am somewhat glad I stuck with it, as the story took on a different nuance towards the end, which made me realize that this was also a father-son narrative primarily (see image above). That being said, I am glad to have finally read Alanguilan’s “Elmer.”


#ReadIntl2020 Update: 35 (of target 30): Philippines

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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