From the Archives: Graphic History

By Susan Harris

With this seventh edition of our annual graphic novel issue, we've now published close to eighty graphic works. Despite the "comics" label, many of these pieces are anything but playful, as artists and writers turn to the graphic form to document painful histories both political and personal. Some of our most powerful pieces present memoirs grounded in world events, such as Zeina Abirached's autobiographical graphic novel "Game for Swallows," translated from French by star translator and WWB contributing editor Edward Gauvin. Abirached grew up in Lebanon during the civil war, and her book depicts one fraught day of bombing from a child's viewpoint. Readers may recall the first English excerpt from the book, in our February 2010 graphic novel issue, with its indelible map of "the complicated and perilous choreography" of dodging snipers in the street: "Walk, run, climb, jump, hug the walls, run, run." As Edward notes, Abirached deploys maps, floor plans, and scrupulous detail to convey the increasing confinement and shrinking options of the family, as "snipers, oil drums, containers, barbed wire, sandbags carve out a new geography." The book landed a translation grant from the French Voices program of the French Embassy (the first graphic novel so recognized) and was selected by the Junior Library Guild, and was published last year by Lerner Books. The publisher has positioned it as a YA title, but this is truly a book for all ages, and a compelling depiction of life during wartime.


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