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Poppies of Iraq

Drawn & Quarterly

Sep 01, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

From husband and wife collaborating team Brigitte Findakly and Lewis Trondheim, Poppies of Iraq is a deeply touching original graphic novel, simultaneously intimate and universal. Perhaps more appropriately termed a graphic recollection, the moving book offers a vignette-style series of Findakly’s memories, recalling her youth and adolescence in Iraq. The first-hand account provides a crisp, genuine, personal reflection (from an Orthodox Christian point of view) of an Arabic nation undergoing major cultural shifts in the 1960s and 70s. Findakly openly recalls her first 14-years of life spent in Iraq, from her joyful and relatively carefree childhood, to the increasing political turmoil that ultimately prompted her family to relocate to France (where, as an adult, she would meet Trondheim). Post-emigration, she returned periodically to her native country, only to feel herself growing ever more removed from the events and lifestyles there.

Poppies of Iraq‘s great success is that it achieves so much with seemingly so little. (Findakly’s and Trondheim’s talents are undeniable, and it becomes almost too easy to overlook the mastery required to create such a beautiful book.) Trondheim’s relatively simple, cartoonish style never dominates the snippets of Findakly’s experience, which she shares with a pointed precision that renders almost every moment memorable. Trondheim’s illustrations compliment Findakly’s anecdotes perfectly, imbuing the impressive account with added layers of relatable humanity. Individually, the moments they capture are not always Earth shattering, but when taken as a whole, they paint an important and highly impactful portrait of a country embroiled in change. Especially to the modern, younger reader, Iraq is a distant world, one with perhaps dubious intents and a corrupted history. What Findakly and Trondheim do so brilliantly is to turn that perception on its head; yes, there are issues within the nation’s borders (as there are in any country), but its is a history of its people (just like of any country). And as one of those people, Findakly compels readers to recognize the humanity the propelled the country forward for millennia. Her memories, especially the more picayune, could have stemmed from any family the world over. This universal quality is what makes the graphic memoir such vital reading, and when coupled with the co-authors’ sharp writing and Trondheim’s circumspect illustrations, Poppies of Iraq becomes a work of near-perfection. (www.drawnandquarterly.com/poppies-iraq)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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