Sunday, November 20, 2011

Review: "Habibi" by Craig Thompson

by Craig Thompson
Release Date: September 20th, 2011
Publisher: Pantheon
Pages: 672
ISBN13: 9780375424144

Craig Thompson doesn't fail to impress with yet another beautifully crafted graphic novel.

Habibi is the story of Dodola, who at the age of 9 is sold as a child bride into a marriage with a scribe. While the tragic circumstances that came with this marriage were difficult for the reader to come to terms with, Dodola is able to learn how to read and write from her husband.
At the age of 12, her husband is murdered and she is taken captive into a slave ring. This is where she meets Zam, whom she  calls "habibi." He is three years old when they meet, and she is able to escape with him and they live in a boat in the desert.

This story doesn't take place in any one era, and the settings vary between medieval and modern eras.

As Dodola and Zam face a harsh world, the magic of stories and cultural mythologies is what keeps them together, and gives them hope, even when they become physically separated.

Also, as someone who is rather familiar with the Judeo-Christian version of biblical accounts of Abraham and Noah, it was enlightening and endlessly fascinating for me to learn about these scriptural events from an Islamic point of view.

What is most overwhelming and pleasing about this work is the book as a physical and visual piece. The art is breathtaking, and the imagery that pulls the whole thing together help the reader step out of the everyday and enjoy this rich mythology illuminating universal human truths about love.

Beautiful Arabic calligraphy is delicately interwoven throughout. The central theme of love in this book is related to that of Blankets. Although, while ultimately about love, this story is more grand in scale than that of Blankets.

While the immense sexualization of the women in this middle eastern setting did little to alter certain stereotypes, I think that Thompson put forth a genuine effort to share something beautiful and unique from Arabic culture (the caligraphy, numerology, design, and mythology) that westerners don't have many opportunities to see.

It is a beautiful book. The illustrations are exquisite. Holding it in one's hands, and reading it for the first time, is quite the experience.

Here is the book's official website.

'...O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!' He chortled in his joy.

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