To be continued in a new country that promises even more culture shock for the family—and hopefully as much potency as the...

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THE ARAB OF THE FUTURE 3

THE CIRCUMCISION YEARS: A CHILDHOOD IN THE MIDDLE EAST, 1985-1987

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.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62779-353-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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A sugarcoated but undiluted vehicle for schooling American readers about their rights and responsibilities.

THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION

A GRAPHIC ADAPTATION

A searching interpretation of that sonorous document the Constitution, with cartoons.

Why have a Constitution to begin with? Because, remarks film and TV writer Hennessey—who, even if his prose is bound by balloons, turns out to be quite the Constitutional scholar—the founding fathers were keenly aware that civil rights were never formally written down in Britain, “and that deeply troubled the framers.” That’s as much of an establishing conflict as is needed for a superhero piece, and Hennessey, paired with artist McConnell, does a fine job of turning the making of the document, despite all the dull stretches in the Constitutional Convention that James Madison recorded in his diary, into a drama. Happily, Hennessey is aware of the truly radical origins of the Constitution, even as he notes its conservative strains. For example, he remarks that the system of checks and balances is a remarkable innovation, even if it sometimes seems that presidential actions—as with military intervention in Vietnam and elsewhere—go unchecked. In addition, laws are difficult to make in this country for very good reason: “Otherwise we might get too many of them.” Combining words and appropriate images, sometimes comic and sometimes earnest, the narrative visits such matters as the three-fifths law of determining apportionment, the writ of habeas corpus, eminent domain and conceptions of property and freedom of assembly and movement (for instance, the Articles of Federation forbade “vagabonds and paupers” from crossing state lines). Also covered are the many guarantees Americans take for granted—not least the Ninth Amendment, which states that certain rights not enumerated (“The right to scratch a dog behind the ears?”) shall not be denied.

A sugarcoated but undiluted vehicle for schooling American readers about their rights and responsibilities.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8090-9487-5

Page Count: 142

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2008

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Playfully drawn and provocatively written, the memoir reinforces Bell's standing among the first rank of the genre’s artists.

THE VOYEURS

“Graphic memoir” only hints at the artistry of a complex, literary-minded author who resists the bare-all confessionalism so common to the genre and blurs the distinction between fiction and factual introspection.

Who are “The Voyeurs?” In the short, opening title piece, they are a mixed-gender group standing on an urban rooftop, watching a couple have sex through a window in a nearby building. They tend to find the experience “uncomfortable,” even “creepy,” though those who remain raptly silent may well be more interested, even titillated. Bell (Lucky, 2006, etc.) is also a voyeur of sorts, chronicling the lives of others in significant detail while contemplating her own. As she admits before addressing an arts class in frigid Minneapolis, where she knows the major interest will be on how she has been able to turn her comics into a career, “I feel I need to disclaim this ‘story.’ I set myself the task of reporting my trip, though there’s not much to it, and I can’t back out now. It’s my compulsion to do this, it’s my way, I suppose, of fighting against the meaninglessness constantly crowding in.” The memoir encompasses travels that take her from Brooklyn to Los Angeles and from Japan to France, while addressing the challenges of long-distance relationships, panic attacks, contemporary feminism, Internet obsessiveness, the temptation to manipulate life to provide material for her work, and the ultimate realization, in the concluding “How I Make My Comics,” of her creative process: “Then I want to blame everyone I’ve known ever for all the failures and frustrations of my life, and I want to call someone up and beg them to please help me out of this misery somehow, and when I realize how futile both these things are I feel the cold, sharp sting of the reality that I’m totally and utterly alone in the world. Then I slap on a punchline and bam, I’m done.”

Playfully drawn and provocatively written, the memoir reinforces Bell's standing among the first rank of the genre’s artists.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-9846814-0-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Uncivilized Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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