Graphic novels by Arab-American creators

It’s no secret I love reading literature by Middle Eastern creators, and graphic novels are no exception. Here are some graphic novels by these creators.

Squire

Aiza has always dreamt of becoming a Knight. It’s the highest military honor in the once-great Bayt-Sajji Empire, and as a member of the subjugated Ornu people, Knighthood is her only path to full citizenship. Ravaged by famine and mounting tensions, Bayt-Sajji finds itself on the brink of war once again, so Aiza can finally enlist in the competitive Squire training program.

It’s not how she imagined it, though. Aiza will have to choose, once and for all: loyalty to her heart and heritage, or loyalty to the Empire.

The Arab of the Future

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.

River Jordan

In this Arab American graphic novel set in Chicago and Amman, Jordan, nine-year-old Rami copes with his father’s tragic death through art, and in the process, sets off on the path to discovering his roots. When the boy turns to his father’s longtime friend Nabil—an artist who lost his eyesight at the very moment his friend was murdered—a spiritual covenant is formed between a fallen father and his youngest son, as together, Rami and Nabil seek peace and truth by creating and sharing art.

Baddawi

Baddawi is the story of a young boy named Ahmad struggling to find his place in the world. Raised in a refugee camp called Baddawi in northern Lebanon, Ahmad is just one of the thousands of Palestinians who fled their homeland after the war in 1948 established the state of Israel.

A Game of Swallows

When Zeina was born, the civil war in Lebanon had been going on for six years, so it’s just a normal part of life for her and her parents and little brother. The city of Beirut is cut in two, separated by bricks and sandbags and threatened by snipers and shelling. East Beirut is for Christians, and West Beirut is for Muslims. When Zeina’s parents don’t return one afternoon from a visit to the other half of the city and the bombing grows ever closer….

I Remember Beirut

Abirached was born in Lebanon in 1981. She grew up in Beirut as fighting between Christians and Muslims divided the city streets. Follow her past cars riddled with bullet holes, into taxi cabs that travel where buses refuse to go, and on outings to collect shrapnel from the sidewalk.

With striking black-and-white artwork, Abirached recalls the details of ordinary life inside a war zone. 

The Apartment in Bab-el-Louk

This ‘fabulous noir poem’ has been simply described as ‘the reflections of an old recluse in busy downtown Cairo neighbourhood of Bab El-Louk’ by Egyptian artist, Ganzeer. Cairo-based writer Donia Maher was first published in Arabic by Dar Merit in 2014, and then received the Kahil Award 2015 for the Graphic Novel Prize.

Freedom Hospital

It is spring 2012 and 40,000 people have died since the start of the Syrian Arab Spring. In the wake of this, Yasmin has set up a clandestine hospital in the north of the country. The town that she lives in is controlled by Assad’s brutal regime, but is relatively stable. However, as the months pass, the situation becomes increasingly complex and violent. Told in stark, beautiful black-and-white imagery, Freedom Hospital illuminates a complicated situation with gut-wrenching detail and very dark humor.

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