The Arab of the Future

7 Oct

Riad’s Sattouf’s first autobiographical graphic novel, The Arab of the Future, opens simply.

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The Arab of the Future was followed this year by Arab of the Future 2. 

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Publisher’s Summary: In The Arab of the Future: Volume 1, cartoonist Riad Sattouf tells of the first years of his childhood as his family shuttles back and forth between France and the Middle East. In Libya and Syria, young Riad is exposed to the dismal reality of a life where food is scarce, children kill dogs for sport, and his cousins, virulently anti-Semitic and convinced he is Jewish because of his blond hair, lurk around every corner waiting to beat him up.

In Volume 2, Riad, now settled in his father’s hometown of Homs, gets to go to school, where he dedicates himself to becoming a true Syrian in the country of the dictator Hafez Al-Assad. Told simply yet with devastating effect, Riad’s story takes in the sweep of politics, religion, and poverty, but is steered by acutely observed small moments: the daily sadism of his schoolteacher, the lure of the black market, with its menu of shame and subsistence, and the obsequiousness of his father in the company of those close to the regime. As his family strains to fit in, one chilling, barbaric act drives the Sattoufs to make the most dramatic of changes.

Darkly funny and piercingly direct, The Arab of the Future, Volume 2 once again reveals the inner workings of a tormented country and a tormented family, delivered through Riad Sattouf’s dazzlingly original talent.

These are really great graphic memoirs that I would feel very comfortable adding to my 6th grade classroom library. What Persepolis did for Iran, Sattouf’s memoirs will do for the Middle East. In these days of suspicion and misunderstanding of the “other”, these graphic novels provide some insight.

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