Monday, September 4, 2017

By Any Means

I have read all of the books in this Ash Rashid detective series and loved them all.  By Any Means was published in 2014 so I am a little behind in my reading.

In this installment of the series Ash is no longer working as a detective for the Indianapolis Police Department but has been reassigned to the community relations department. He primarily gives speeches to schools. However, on his way home from work one day he finds a car accident.  Since no other officers are available, Ash is told to stay at the scene until an officer can arrive. Ash is unable to not investigate so he begins asking questions to those who were in the area when the accident happened. He determined that these responses do not add up and begins to investigate what he feels is a homicide.

As usual, author Chris Culver outdoes himself with his writing.  It is fast paced with plenty of twists and turns and there is a cliffhanger ending. I also love that his protagonist is an American Muslim, albeit not much of a practitioner of his faith.  Ash is an alcoholic. This is a welcome addition to American fiction and normalizes the viewpoint of Muslims in our society.

A great read!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Attack

When I bought this graphic novel I presumed it was about a terrorist attack in the Middle East, which it is.  However, the plot was much different than I expected.

Amin Jaafari is an Arab and a naturalized Israeli citizen living in Tel Aviv.  He is also a surgeon and lives a life of luxury compared to that of his fellow Arabs. When his wife Sihem is identified as a suicide bomber who killed 19 people in a restaurant, Amin has to comes to grips with how she decieved him. He had no idea that she had terrorist leanings. Amin then travels to Palestinian areas in order to discover how his secular wife became radicalized.

I loved this book. The author does not take a side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, unusual in a book taking place in the Middle East. He shows both sides along with the stress and grief that they both share in this conflict. 

Red Rosa

Kate Evans' Red Rosa is a graphic biography of Rosa Luxemburg.  I was not familiar with Luxemburg before reading this biography but I found that she was a woman ahead of her time.  Rosa was a passionate socialist who did alot of writing and speaking to educate and inspire many people to her cause. She was the only woman of her era, the early 1900s, to have this power.

She was born and raised in Poland but also lived in Germany promoting her beliefs. She was tough enough to question the beliefs and actions of both Marx and Lenin. She also did not care for society's role for women and chose not to marry, prefer to have lovers instead. She was truly a woman in control of her life and I admire that.

As a feminist myself, I was surprised that I had not heard of Rosa Luxemburg before seeing this book.  She was certainly a female powerhouse of the twentieth century and belongs in studies on women's history.  Unfortunately, none of the courses I took in college mentioned her.

Ladies, this is a must read!

Nanjing: The Burning City

I was disappointed in Ethan Young's Nanjing. It is a wartime narrative of the fall of China's former capital city Nanjing to the Japanese in 1937. The book showcases 2 Chinese soldiers who were caught in the city after it was captured by the Japanese.

I did not learn much about the WWII fight commonly known as the Rape of Nanjing. Perhaps I am used to this type of story being told as a reportage comic which has tons of detail via the dialogue.  There is little dialogue in Nanjing and the artwork consists of black and white drawings in comic strips.

Unfortunately, I can only give this graphic novel 1 out of 5 stars. It just didn't teach me anything about this episode in history.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Safe Area Gorazde

Safe Area Gorazde is the story of the town of Gorazde in eastern Bosnia during the Bosnian War in the early 1990s.  It is told from the point of view of the reportage cartoonist Joe Sacco who was a U.N. journalist who traveled there 4 times during the war.  The U. N. had designated Gorazde as a safe area during the war but it was anything but safe. The community had been majority Muslim before the war began but most of them were slaughtered by the Serbs throughout the war.

The story is heavy on the fighting with interludes on silly teenage girls and parties with local residents. Much of the information on Gorazde comes from the author's guide Edin, a grad student.  Also, refugees arriving in Gorazde tell about the atrocities they saw in their hometowns, including mass executions, that they were forced to flee from. There is also information on Yugoslavia from the end of WWII to the beginning of the Bosnian War. After WWII the different ethnicities lived together peacefully under the authoritarian leadership of Tito. After Tito's death, Slobodan Milosevic took power and began inciting ethnic hatred.

While I had read much about this war while it was ongoing, I learned alot about it from the first person accounts that the author provided in the book.

The book offers a good history of this war. History lovers will want to check this one out.

Killing and Dying

This was not my favorite graphic novel. It is a compilation of 6 separate comics.  While they were amusing, I prefer to have one story told in a "novel."

The comics included "Hortisculpture," "Amber Sweet," "Go Owls," "Translated From the Japanese," "Killing and Dying," and "Intruders."  My favorites were "Hortisculpture" which is about a new art form that combines sculpture and gardening, "Amber Sweet" which is about mistaken identity and "Killing and Dying" which is about parenthood.

The style of the artwork is minimalist drawings done in comic panels. Most are black and white but every few pages there is color.

I hate to give an author a poor rating on a book when I am predisposed to not liking it in the first place.  I won't do that.  If you are the type of graphic novel reader who likes seeing a series of different comics in one book, you will enjoy this one. 

Threads From the Refugee Crisis

OMG!  I learned so much from this graphic novel on life in a refugee camp in Calais.  The book is about the author's volunteer work at the "Calais Jungle" refugee camp in Calais, France which was dismantled last year. She uses full color graphics and changing font styles to tell her story.
In Threads you will meet some refugees, see their living conditions, and hear their stories. 

This is a heavyweight book and it took me some time to get through it. I was shocked at how the camp looked and was run.  I was also shocked by how much the involvement of the local police had a negative effect on the refugees. It seems that while some of the refugees had established a sense of humanity in their living conditions, the police destroyed homes and disrupted that sense of normalcy. The author told a story about a pregnant refugee with 5 year old twins who was beat up by the police for no reason and lost her kids. Having the graphics drawn showed me much more than I have ever learned from a traditional news report. As the inside cover blurb states it is filled with "poignant images-by turns shocking, infuriating, wry and heartbreaking." This is an accurate decription. The images are drawn in a childish style that contrasts with the seriousness of the subject matter.

When I finished reading Threads I felt emotionally upset. The author did a great job at showing the horrors of being a refugee. However, her approach to the political issue of immigration, at the conclusion of the book, will probably only appeal to those who already agree with her viewpoints. I think she could have changed some people's minds about immigration if she had used a different type of appeal. 

Threads is one if the best graphic novels that I have ever read and everyone should read it.