Graphic novel about the Syrian refugee crisis
I picked up a copy of this book ages ago from Canty’s Bookshop. Back in December (yes, I am still very behind on reviews!) I was raiding my bookshelves for suitable books for my Short Stack Reading Challenge and this little graphic novel was definitely on the list.
“Zenobia” by Morten Dürr and Lars Horneman is a graphic novel about a young girl called Amina from Syria who is on a crowded boat which is hit by a large wave. As she falls into the ocean, she thinks about her life before the boat, when her parents didn’t come back from buying ingredients for dolmas.
This is a quiet graphic novel that without direct reference or depiction of violence, explores the human impact of the Syrian civil war. Although Amina is the main character and point of view of the book, her voice is almost entirely internal and the situation is almost entirely outside her control, resulting in the very strong sense that she is voiceless and powerless. Dürr and Horneman draw parallels throughout Amina’s journey with text and imagery, with themes like salt, being lost and Zenobia, a Syrian heroine, connecting past and present.
I appreciate that this is a graphic novel that is suitable for younger audiences, and can help children to make sense of a very fraught and complex situation. However, while reading it, I did wonder if perhaps in making it so accessible, a little too much nuance was lost, including in relation to Amina’s true experience of living through conflict. I think a good counterpoint about conflict in and migration from the Middle East is “Persepolis“, written and illustrated by an Iranian author.
An easy read about a challenging topic for all ages that at times feels a little over-simplified.