Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Game For Swallows

A Game For Swallows had a huge impact on me, challenging my American notions of what life is like in war torn countries. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. This is especially true in this graphic novel with its stark black and white drawings of the author's former Christian neighborhood in Beirut.  She shows how much of her community is safe by drawing a small circle on a page of paper. She also shows how barricades are set up to make it safer for people to walk outside without getting hit by a sniper. This tells me so much more than what I hear in tv and newspaper news reports.

The story begins with the author as a child being holed up in the foyer of her family's apartment, the only safe place in the apartment. Neighbors come by during bombings to join the family in the foyer for safety reasons. There is much hospitality present as coffee and alcohol are always being offered to everyone. Worry is present also as the family worries about other family members who got stuck in other parts of town when the guns and bombs began to go off. The neighbors create a homey atmosphere for the author and her brother by sharing cooking lessons, games and gossip.

The title of the book comes from a quote by Florian "to die  to leave  to return  it's a game for swallows." I am sure it was chosen to represent the fact that people have to constantly move to new places when they are living in a war zone in order not to get killed.

I thought it was interesting that the author placed a dot inside the letter "o" every time it was used in a word. It is a bullseye and let's the reader know just how much the country's residents feel they are being attacked by the warring parties. The font used for the dialogue was a plain style font that contributed to the seriousness of the story. The author, Zeina Abirached, used her artwork to the fullest extent in telling her story. It made the story much more compelling than if she had used a different style.

I was blown away by this book and cannot recommend it more highly.

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