Serious fun: Exploring Zeina Abirached’s graphic novels

Serious fun – not seriously funny, but serious fun. 

That is how I would describe Zeina Abirached’s graphic novels I Remember Beirut and A Game for Swallows.  I recently picked up Abirached’s I Remember Beirut after being drawn to the striking black-and-white artwork on the cover, very similar in style to Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. The similarities do not end there; both women bring to life their memories of coming of age in the ever tumultuous Middle East. For Satrapi, it is life under Islamic fundamentalism after the Iranian Revolution of 1979. For Abirached, it is life during the Lebanon Civil War which lasted from 1975-1990.

While any wartime climate is serious, it was fun to read I Remember Beirut and reminisce about the 1980s alongside Abriached. Remembering things like: watching Flo-Jo win gold in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, but being more intrigued by her long fingernails; when Kit-Kat candy bars were wrapped in foil and tissue paper; how cassette tapes sounded when we shook them; and the Walkman we used to play our cassette tapes in. Remembering, feeling a connection to Abriached, was the fun part of her serious tale – a tale that also includes blackouts, bullet holes, food and fuel shortages, and having to wonder how to get to school since the bus will no longer come to your neighborhood.  

While serious, I Remember Beirut is a good introduction about war and children living amidst war for the young reader. Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis is probably best suited for young adults and older.


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