2 August 2009

Arab in America

Arab in America
By: Toufic El Rassi
118 pages, b&w, softcover
Language: English
Last Gasp, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-86719-587-3

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.

Top 10 comic book cities

Here's an interesting thing on the web: The Architect's Journal chooses the "Top 10 comic book cities". Obviously not done for comics affcionados, and interesting for some of its more quirky remarks from real architect nerds. And yes, all fields have got ´em, not just us...

Evil Dress

Evil Dress
By: Emilie Östergren
Language: Swedish/English
112 pages, color, hardcover
Sanatorium, 2009
ISBN: 978-91-976912-5-3

Wow! (and no, that's not the acronym for World of Warcraft, even though I might get back to that in a day or two. No, it is of course an exclamation meaning elation, wonder and excitement!)

I've known that Emelie Östergren's images were beautiful for a while now, and still I have had this book in my to-read pile for several months. Well, my loss! Emelie Östergren takes the reader for a ride in this surreal little book. The stories are full of big-nosed, weird looking, seemingly anxiety ridden little girls with big, voluptuous dresses who do the strangest things, often in total silence leaving it up to the reader to make sense of it all. Among others, Lewis Carrol is an obvious influence, with holes in the ground, in mattresses etc. often playing a vital part in the stories. But I don't care about the influences. This is unique and it hits me with the full force of an artistic temperament channeled through the media of comics. It could have been so stale and arty, and it is not. This is a Swedish artist showing that she is ready to conquer the world already in her book debut. A sign of this is the fact that everything in the book is printed both in Swedish and English, including the texts in all speech-balloons, something that feels a bit weird to start with, but soon works strangely well.

And the book is also beautiful, almost perfect with its heavy stock, off-white paper, somber dustcover, beautiful interior cover and so on. Sanatorium does it again! A book you just want to hold in your hands and never let go of.

So what are you waiting for? Go buy it! Now!