Refugee and Migrant Narrative in Baddawi by Leila Abdelrazaq

By Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona

BaddawiBaddawi by Leila Abdelrazaq follows Ahmad, a struggling young boy raised in a refugee camp called “Baddawi” in North Lebanon. He tries to find himself and his identity while growing up in a place he cannot call home. His story represents one of the many thousands of refugee children born in Palestine who fled or were forced to leave their homeland after the war in 1948 and the establishment of the state of Israel.

The experiences and stories of the author’s father’s life in the camp of Baddawi inspire this graphic novel. Abdelrazaq, in her effort to discover her father’s childhood in the 1960s and ’70s from a boy’s eye view, explores her father’s feelings as he witnessed the world crumbling around him. The black and white linear visual text is reinforced by the written words. Furthermore, the visual text fashions Ahmad’s path in the midst of ambiguity in a life without roots or home. Her text evokes Marjane Satrapi’s style in Persepolis, based on her childhood in Iran.

Ahmad experiences joyful holidays and new friends in an exciting community within the camp. However, negative everyday episodes of school bullying and worries of being separated from his way of life cloud this joy. His separation from his family in the Lebanese civil war, however, inevitably leaves painful marks in his memory. Ahmad pursues education and opportunity, echoing the journey of the Palestinian people as they make the best of their circumstances.

Abdelrazaq, a Palestinian author and artist based in Chicago, graduated from DePaul University in 2015 with a BFA in Theatre Arts and a BA in Arabic Studies. Baddawi is her debut graphic novel, and she is also the creator of a number of zines and short comix. Her creative work primarily explores issues related to diaspora, refugees, history, memory, and borders. Since 2011, Abdelrazaq organizes around the Palestinian cause. She currently stands as a member of For The Peoples Artists Collective and co-founded Al Mirsa, an organization dedicated to promoting Arab arts and culture in the Chicagoland area.

Abdelrazaq, Leila (2015), Baddawi. Just World Books.

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