Visually arresting and emotionally devastating, this graphic memoir of war and childhood feels like an art book and explodes like a car bomb.
Now based in Paris, Ziadé recounts her childhood in Beirut, where the privileged life of a well-to-do Christian family was shattered by incomprehensible conflict. Unlike the convention of most graphic narratives, this is not a work of panels and captions. Instead, full-page, full-color illustrations are interspersed with occasional pages of text, mostly short bursts of a paragraph or two, using an adult’s command of prose to reflect the perspective of a young child, one who grappled with the complexities of lethal violence that pitted Christians against Muslims, Christians against Christians, Palestinians against Israelis. “I would have loved to learn that the Palestinians were actually the bad guys; it would have been so much easier,” she writes. “At eight I had entered a complex world filled with contradictions and nuances.” Rather than offering a political polemic, Ziadé shows how it felt to find the comforts of consumer culture (often rendered with Warhol-esque brand names) give way to violence that then became the everyday reality. “It’s a casual war. For us, what’s important is doing it with style,” she writes with a child’s open-eyed wonder. She then continues after three pages of drawings (Chivas and cigar, a cheeseburger, corpses at the feet of rifle-toting terrorists): “In Lebanon, the violence takes on legendary status. It’s paramount as the war unfolds—during the first two years everyone is having so much fun: it becomes a ritual for fighters from both sides to drag their prisoners through the streets behind a car until they die. Torture and mutilations are common practice.”
Stunning in both the art and the audacity.