palestine by joe sacco

April 23, 2008

Every time I visit the comic book library, there is someone different at the check-out counter. That works well as each person has their own favourites there, so I have been introduced to a host of fantastic books. My last recommendation was Joe Sacco‘s ‘Palestine‘, an illustrated collection recounting his two month trip to the area between 1991 and 1992. Sacco travels to various refugee camps and interviews many of its residents, detailing their stories and grieviances in painful detail.

I have to say the book made for uncomfortable reading to start with, with its stark images and severe telling of the Palestinians’ every day lives and troubles, including graphic descriptions of torture and imprisonment by Israelis. At first, I felt overwhelmed by his drawings, similar to reading the news on the latest in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, but more confronting. Also, his position as an observing Western outsider made it difficult initially to get a feel for his stance.

Possibly as his own alliances developed, and as he got to know people better, the stories grew more subtle and gentle, making it much easier on the mind to read. In one of the chapters many Palestinian women give their different answers as to why they do or do not wear headscarves. Towards the end of the book, an Israeli woman in the book expresses anger that Sacco presents only one side of the conflict, however this is as good a version as any of that side as you will ever read.

Several of the people Sacco encounters confront him and demand to know what good his reporting and drawing will do. He doesn’t have a good answer for them, and neither do I for you. But I certainly felt I learnt a lot from it, and it continues to play on my mind now, weeks afterwards.

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