I Remember Beirut

by Zeina Abirached

In her graphic novel memoir A Game for Swallows (U.S. edition: Graphic Universe,... read more

In her graphic novel memoir A Game for Swallows (U.S. edition: Graphic Universe, 2012), Zeina Abirached built a story around a single night of her childhood growing up in Lebanon during the Civil War in the 1980s. Here, she offers a broader sense of what life was like for her and her family during that time of unrest, covering a span of years. Less story than a series of vignettes, this account details individual, disparate memories of that time, and yet a sense of story emerges: about the resilience of children and families and people enduring incredible hardship; and about how the unthinkable becomes normalized, especially for children who have no other experience. The memories she shares are of both small details and big moments of her childhood, many of which are widely relatable, and often quite funny. “I remember the year I had to get braces. That same year I found out I was nearsighted … and I thought it would be a good idea to get my hair cut. Not exactly cause for celebration.” The “I remember” phrase is used over and over, offering the events of her life during this time with measured matter-of-factness regardless of whether what follows is humorous or hair-raising — there was a war on, after all. But there are occasional blank pages suggesting there is more she isn’t — perhaps cannot — say, while the closing pages show adult Zeina haunted by nightmares of her childhood. Abirached’s drawing style is striking with its stylized, dramatic white-on-black art and expressive faces. (Age 14 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2015

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