Posted on February 07, 2017
If you like the graphic literature on WWB Campus,—such as “A Drifting Life” from Japan, “The Last of the Bunch” from Egypt, or “Sharing” from China—be sure to check out Words Without Borders' issue this month: International Graphic Novels!
In the introduction to the issue, Dominic Davies makes a good case for comics, or graphic narrative, as places for border crossings. He writes:
…comics might be thought of as an empathetic medium. Readers have to situate themselves in the cultural context inhabited by their authors in order to make sense of the story…Because comics are, one might say, comprised of words (and pictures) with borders, they allow readers to more easily identify those borders, before then moving beyond them in the very act of reading.
The short graphic narrative “Heniek” tells a brief story of an Polish man aspiring to move abroad. As Davies writes in the introduction, “By juxtaposing Heniek’s dreams of working abroad with a sarcastic depiction of the realities for migrant laborers, the comic runs against the grain of mainstream anti-immigrant media discourse, especially in the US and UK.” (This also would fit within the Leaving Home theme; students might read it alongside “Dreams and Memories of a Common Man” or “A Failed Journey” to examine different representations of migration and immigration.)
"The Minibus," from Turkey, illustrates in vivid color a young woman's trip across Istanbul on a minibus. In some ways, it’s a familiar story of crowded metropolitan public transportation, but it also reveals the tensions at different levels of Turkish society today. (Pair this with “Hello?” from Russia, which also takes place on public transportation.)
“Joe” tells the story of a polar bear disturbed by the environmental crisis; he goes to the New York to tell the UN that they’re “misunderstanding everything.” Along the way, he meets people from around the worldand hears their stories of how the climate catastrophe has affected them. (This would work within a theme-based unit on Leaving Home or Transformation; or, you might pair it with Can Xue’s “The Old Cicada” to explore personification.)
"Coloureds," from South Africa, and "Men and Beasts," from Zaire, both tell stories that reveal the structural and other kinds of violence within the poorest communities. (Read an excerpt of Sentimental Education, from Japan, for another story of a rough childhood and parent-child relationship; or, read alongside another work of graphic literature: Proud Beggars, which depicts crime and vice in 1950s Cairo.)
“An Endless Green Line,” from Cyprus, uses the borders of the comic to tell about how the political border in Cyprus affected people’s lives. (Pair this with the poem “Things Elude Me,” which evokes thoughts of previous homes; “Nothing Remains Empty,” a poem about what might be recorded in a book of the “memory of time.” Or, focusing on the father in the story, you could read it alongside “Timid as a Mouse” and “Appendix” to explore different father characters.
In “Urban Tails,” from Israel, two pet cats—Rafi and Spaghetti—comment on their two moms’ lives, in the process challenging borders of normative heterosexuality, and gender and sexual identity. (Read alongside another conversation around sexuality, “The Story of a Homosexual: An Interview with Ni Dongxue.”)
To find graphic literature on WWB Campus, go to the Find Literature page, and click on the “Graphic Fiction” or "Graphic Nonfiction" filters. And, as always, please let us know how you’ve used these stories in your readings and classes!