The Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978-1984: A Graphic Memoir


  • Enjoy historical memoirs
  • Want to read more about life in the Middle East
  • Are in the mood for a graphic novel

TitleThe Arab of the Future…| Author: Riad Sattouf | Rating: 5/5

A wonderful read! I felt like I was listening to my baba’s stories from his own childhood in Syria, much like the Riad Sattouf‘s childhood there. From listening to his own father tell him tales of how he used to eat toutes (mulberries), or how he was the only one from his family to go to university, the memoir is at once both a legend and a history.

In striking, virtuoso graphic style that captures both the immediacy of childhood and the fervor of political idealism, Riad Sattouf recounts his nomadic childhood growing up in rural France, Gaddafi’s Libya, and Assad’s Syria–but always under the roof of his father, a Syrian Pan-Arabist who drags his family along in his pursuit of grandiose dreams for the Arab nation.

I felt the suppression and oppression that living under dictators like Gaddafi and Hafez Al-Assad must have been like. But I also felt the love and affection that is inherent to families. I did think at times that Sattouf was too quick to recount only the oddities, but this first memoir in a series is also when he was much younger and moving between living in France to Libya to Syria and back to France and then Syria, again.

Brimming with life and dark humor, The Arab of the Future reveals the truth and texture of one eccentric family in an absurd Middle East, and also introduces a master cartoonist in a work destined to stand alongside Maus and Persepolis.

Syria has grown much since the late 70’s and 80’s, and yet, all that growth seems destroyed in present-day war tragedies. I wish there were memoirs of Syria in the time before the war, like the summer I spent there in 2007, where both ancient heritage and modern development lived alongside each other.

Still, the memoir was a glimpse into the past, a glimpse into what my family must have lived like, and a lens to view modern-day Syrians through. A beautiful read, I’ll be continuing with the next in the series, The Arab of the Future 2: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1984-1985: A Graphic Memoir, which picks up where the first one left off.

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