A visually stunning presentation of the lives of women and children surviving under the worst circumstances in Burma, Mexico, Russia and Malawi.
The project is a joint production of actress/reporter Kirshner, writer MacKinnon (Dead Man in Paradise: Unraveling a Murder from a Time of Evolution, 2007, etc.) and Shoebridge and Simons, creative directors at Adbusters. (The book also contains work from Chris Abani, Phoebe Gloeckner, Joe Sacco and others.) The authors open with the anonymous stories of refugees along the Thailand-Burma border, featuring sex workers in Burmese brothels where the HIV/AIDS rate is 25 percent, and children forced into service in the Burmese army. The horrific stories of rape, abortion and violence they tell are accompanied by equally disturbing artwork that combines paintings, drawings, text and photographs. In Russia, the setting is the Republic of Ingushetia, home to refugee camps filled with displaced persons from neighboring Chechnya. Included here is a stark six-part graphic novel, “Chechen War, Chechen Women,” depicting the grim lives of women during and after the war. The Mexican section looks at the lives of missing and murdered girls in Ciudad Juárez and features a still-missing teenager, Ericka, whose story is illustrated with Polaroid snapshots of empty rooms annotated by her mother, and Claudia, a murdered 20-year-old whose short life is illustrated with sketches, documents, posters, needlework pictures and collages. In Malawi, where HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis are decimating the villages, a simple, poignant story of birth, life and death from “the wasting disease” is accompanied by delicate, lovely illustrations. The inmates of Kachere Prison, mostly poor orphan boys awaiting trial, narrate their stories of murder and minor theft, with the text superimposed over bleak, harsh, poster-like blocks of type. Kirshner, who visited the brothels, refugee camps and prisons in each of these countries to interview the subjects, links the pieces, provides the background necessary to understand each situation and offers her thoughts and impressions. The contributions of her collaborators are not individually identified, but the visuals lift this work above the ordinary.
Somewhat uneven writing amid a myriad of powerful images.