Further episodes in the author’s boyhood as illuminated through this highly praised, multivolume graphic memoir.
As the blond-haired son of a French mother and a Syrian Muslim father, Sattouf (The Arab of the Future, Volume 2, 2016, etc.) recounts his years of being shuttled between their homelands and finding ridicule as a foreigner in each. Here, the author is 7 and living in Syria, where the other children call him “Frenchy” and taunt him to speak that gibberish language. He also had occasion to reveal his uncircumcised penis, which was unlike those of the other boys and even his father, a self-proclaimed “Modern Muslim.” Educated in France to be a university professor, his father brought his family back to Syria in the face of discrimination against Arabs, trying to find benefactors who would help him achieve a standard of living that would please his wife. But there was little that pleased her; she hated living in Syria and missed her homeland. “You French women, you always want everything right away,” Sattouf heard his father tell his mother amid their constant quarreling. “Syrian women don’t question their husbands. They do what they’re told and that’s it.” Unlike the devout surrounding them, their household didn’t have much faith in the god of any religion, a skepticism shared by the author, who continued to believe in a Santa Claus who delivered less consistently in Syria than he had in France. Eventually, he fell deeply under the spell of Conan the Barbarian, procured from the video store, and observed his first Ramadan. It appeared that nothing could rescue this family from cultural deadlock, but then everything clicked: Sattouf’s father made a crucial connection, his mother became pregnant and returned with the author to France to await the birth, and, when they returned, the father told them of a new job and new adventures, which we will see in the fourth volume.
To be continued in a new country that promises even more culture shock for the family—and hopefully as much potency as the first volume.