118 pages, b&w, softcover
Last Gasp, 2007
OK, so I'm a bit slow on the uptake... This was actually published two years ago, but I just now got around to reading it. It was among the many things I ordered to go through for my book on propaganda in comics. It didn't fit in the book, but is still an interesting read.
This is an autobiography by, as the title states, an Arab in America. El Rassi entered the US as a one-year old, with his parents who were fleeing persecution in Lebanon. As he grew up in the suburbs of Chicago he felt more and more alienated by the American society as anti-Arab sentiment grew following the Gulf Wars and especially 9/11. This is his story, combining personal experiences told in traditional comics form, with historical/pedagogical/propagandistical parts (depending on your views) told with bigger chunks of text with accompanying illustrations.
Now there's two ways to react on this book. On one hand it is a heartfelt and probably very truthful story, telling it like it is from a perspective seldom given a voice in media. On the other hand this is, as far as I know, El Rassi's debut as a comics artist, and this shows both in the art and the flow of the storytelling. Now I can live with the art being a bit clunky, but some of the more lengthy tirades about American foreign policy do feel too much in your face for me. Sure they are most likely the honest beliefs of the author, but the way they are presented is not the best way to sell these ideas.
Still, this book is, as I stated in the beginning interesting. More honest than a really good comic, but worth the read if you want to try to step into another person’s mind.