Forced Journeys in Children’s Literature, Part I

By Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona

Comic books have been popular. Black and white comic strips have been present in newspapers. Cartoon comic strips have been popular due to being funny and also due to their political and social commentary. Presently, movies take the ideas and books and project them for a larger audience thus emphasizing their impact. Graphic novels are popular and have made a recent comeback and continue this narrative discourse that is highlighted in popular films and comic books.

Forced Journeys in Children's Literature

Forced journeys are a way of life for many especially in this day and age. Myriad of children are rendered homeless due to no fault of their own. Presently, YA and children’s literature are highlighting the struggles of immigrant youth who live more than one life with multiple identities as they adjust to new regions and languages.

The following four texts that are a part of this blog are wholly or in part based in the Middle Eastern regions and tumultuous historical events that impacted each narrative. The stories projected are those of children growing up under oppression of multiple kinds and how that impacts who they become and how they reinterpret their narratives for the readers/audiences.

Title: The Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East
Author & Illustrator: Riad Sattouf
Publisher: Metropolitan Books
ISBN: 9781627793445
Date Published: October 20, 2015
Riad Sattouff exposes the reader to a life in Libya, Syria and France (1978-1984) through the eyes of two-year-old child, born from the union of a French Mother and a Syrian Father. This graphic novel is the first one in a five-part series. The second one was published in 2017.

Title: Baddawi
Author & Illustrator: Leila Abdelrazaq
Publisher: Just World Books
ISBN: 9781935982401
Date Published: April 1, 2015
Leila AbdelRazaq tells a story of a young boy named Ahmad, who was born and grew up in the constant state of statelessness within a Palestinian refugee camp of Baddawi in Northern Lebanon. AbdelRazaq writes about her father’s lived experience in this graphic biography beginning in 1959 and ending in 1980.

Title: A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return
Author & Illustrator: Zeina Abirached
Publisher: Graphic Universe
ISBN: 9781575059419
Date Published: August 1, 2013
A Game for Swallows: To Die, To Leave, To Return is based on the lived experiences of Zenia, a Lebanese Christian during the civil war in 1984 Beirut. Abirached is a Lebanese Christian settled in France.

Title: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
Author & Illustrator: Marjane Satrapi
Publisher: Pantheon Books
ISBN: 9780375714573
Date Published: June 1, 2004
Marjane Satrapi writes about her experiences of living through two revolutions in her homeland. This novel is a pioneer in the field of graphic memoirs based in Middle Eastern regions. Satrapi recounts her experiences as a ten-year-old in 1980 Iran till the point when she leaves as a twelve-thirteen-year-old for Vienna in this graphic memoir. Satrapi is an Iranian who lived in Vienna then moved to France.

You can find more information about these books in part II of this series.

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