Reading Level: Adult
Genre: Graphic Novel/Contemporary Fiction
Length: 672 pages
Release Date: September 20, 2011
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Rating: 5/5 stars
“Sprawling across an epic landscape of deserts, harems, and modern industrial clutter, Habibi tells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, by circumstance, and by the love that grows between them. We follow them as their lives unfold together and apart; as they struggle to make a place for themselves in a world (not unlike our own) fueled by fear, lust, and greed; and as they discover the extraordinary depth—and frailty—of their connection.
At once contemporary and timeless, Habibi gives us a love story of astounding resonance: a parable about our relationship to the natural world, the cultural divide between the first and third worlds, the common heritage of Christianity and Islam, and, most potently, the magic of storytelling.”
I had this book on my wish list for a long time and was excited to get it for Mother’s Day. This was an amazing book in so many ways. It was impossible to put down and incredibly interesting. Really this was unlike any other graphic novel I have read.
I am not going to rehash the story description. The story has a bit of an epic adventure feel to it and some survival elements. The settings change drastically throughout; from the boat that Dodola and Zam make their initial home in, to the lush courts of a sultan, to the slums of a busy city. In the beginning the story feels historical but as it continues you realize (scarily) that it could be set in modern day.
Both Dodola and Zam are very interesting characters. Dodola goes through a lot at a very young age (she is married at 9 years old and looking at my 9 year old son this made me shudder) and she is strong but not infallible. She has her moments of weakness and does things to survive that she’s not proud of. Her and Zam have an interesting dynamic because they are very close in age; initially she is more of a mother to him and then later a friend.
There is just so much packed into this book. For example how living in the natural world versus the city contrast each other and how both lifestyles have their own elements of survival to deal with. The idea of slavery and how people are discriminated against both by race and gender in also addressed. Additionally the idea of industrialization and how that can be class driven as well is explored. All of these elements are wrapped up in a story of love and survival and of what Dodola and Zam have to go through both together and separately to survive.
Another thing I found incredibly interesting was the description of the Quran and various aspects of the Islamic religion. I never realized the Quran was so founded in math and science at the fundamental level. All of this was new to me and made me want to learn more about Islam and the Quran.
There is beautiful illustration in here and beautiful poetry as well. Some of the letters of the poetry themselves make beautiful patterns and scenes on the pages. The book itself, with it’s beautiful cover and pages, is a masterpiece that I adore owning. I would recommend for older teen to adult readers; there is a lot of bad stuff that happens in here (including sexual violence) and lots of nudity as well.
Overall this is an amazing book that really brings graphic novels to a new level. There is so much in here that is interesting and thoughtful and it is all wrapped up in a story that is incredibly engaging.