Here's a review of a graphic novel to kick things off. And let me just say--Whoa.
I've read Craig Thompson's critically-praised earlier works, and if I were to use one word to describe Goodbye, Chunky Rice it would be "bittersweet". Blankets would be "loss." If I were to use one word to describe Habibi it would be "epic."
Actually, I might throw "tragedy" in there, too.
in a fictional middle-eastern Islamic country, this story has
everything: child brides, slavery, prophetic visions, institutional
misogyny and racism, water as a symbol of environmentalism, a harem... A lot of bad stuff goes down, but the author is very careful to never judge the Muslim worldview by which everyone is governed.
to the scope of this book is the author's creative vision. Arabic
calligraphy, magic squares, and the intricate abstract illuminations
(necessary to the Muslim faith because representational art is
considered idolatry) are all absolutely integral to the story-- all
visual components, which move the narrative forward. The book itself is
665 pages with amazing art on every page. The author must have
learned Arabic to write this, and obvious immersed himself in the Koran
and Islamic tradition--nothing in the text gives away he grew up as a
church-going kid in rural Michigan.
In the end, these
broken characters have faith that water (and gnostic-like purity) will
be their deliverance, and their ultimate redemption will be through
loving Allah without the reward of heaven or the punishment of hell. As a
Christian, I have faith that not water, but blood will save, and that the shed blood is evidence that a mighty God went through hell to love ME.
a difference. This graphic novel is an amazing glimpse into an
altogether foreign worldview which makes me so thankful for my own.