Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less

Sarah Glidden has received numerous awards and accolades for her work in minicomics, including the 2008 Ignatz Award for Promising New Talent. She is an American-born artist, and this book is her first major endeavor. These interviews with Douglas Wolk, Samuel J. Scott, and Michael Cavna shed more light on her life, politics, and work.

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less is a mediation about the politics and reality of Israel in the face of constant conflict with Palestinians and surrounding Arab nations. Glidden visited Israel in 2007 for a ten-day "birthright tour." She comes in expecting to find much pro-Israeli propaganda, as she is more sympathetic to the Palestinian side of the conflict. Instead of a simple bully-versus-victim situation, she comes to see many aspects of the historical happenings and political realities. She wrestles with her beliefs often, in fictional scenes depicted as a fantastical courtroom. She visits a great many places on the tour, including Tel Aviv, Kinneret, the desert, Golan Heights, and Jerusalem, learning about their historical import as well as their current statuses. Afterward, she stays for some more time, trying to get a less filtered, more real view of Israel by visiting the West Bank, but still no clarity emerges.

This intriguing volume contains much material to debate about regarding the politics of Israel, and it acts as a treasure trove of information not only within the actual narrative but also in the helpful glossary and timeline at the end of the book. I felt that the story was a fine combination of nonfiction and fantastical elements that was dense at times, but appropriately so according to the subject matter. The reviewer at Jewlicious found the plot very compelling and read the book in one sitting. Jen Sorenson called the book "a particularly effective piece of graphic storytelling," noting that the fictional courtroom scenes helped her pull the story and arguments together well. Kelly Thompson does not know if she is any clearer about the Israeli/Palestinian situation after reading it but noted that she was moved by this well-crafted graphic novel.

This book is published by Vertigo, and a preview of it is available from TIME magazine's Techland.

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