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Habibi by Craig Thompson
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Habibi (edition 2011)

by Craig Thompson

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1,207776,630 (4.07)92
Member:Francisca84
Title:Habibi
Authors:Craig Thompson
Info:Amsterdam Oog & Blik cop. 2011
Collections:strips, Read but unowned
Rating:***
Tags:None

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Habibi by Craig Thompson

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English (70)  French (2)  Spanish (2)  German (1)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  All (77)
Showing 1-5 of 70 (next | show all)
I wanted to put 4 stars because the artwork is so lush and detailed, and the meditations on the Arabic letters inspire reverence for the script. But something about the main characters did not draw me in. I liked one of the crazy old side characters better. Somewhere near the end though, my appreciation bumped up a notch when I realized this wasn't merely an alternate Middle Eastern universe, but, wait for it... a dystopian, post-diluvian, garbage-saturated future world of our own, where apparently civilization regresses to its baser nature and turns into a pleasure-seeking, sometimes barbaric society: widespread slavery, especially of dark-skinned races, children killed or sold off into slavery or marriage when deemed burdens, women treated as slaves or objects to satisfy lust, men choosing or being forced to turn into eunuchs to be able to support themselves, and death and punishments based on the whims of a spoiled, desensitized sultan. It's a waste land, where the poor have water shortages and live in toxic sludge, and the rich or promiscuous beautiful waste away in a haze of opium and sex and gold. Or... SPOILER! at least part of it was created that way by politicians. We find out that on the other side of the secret dam lies the source of this large-scale conspiracy.

But the two characters? If I were the more crude sort, I'd say it's about discovering lust and love for the woman who raised you (in effect, your foster mother), and finding happiness together even though she wants a baby but, oops, you already got yourself castrated.

But I don't want to seem fixated on that aspect, so, uh, yeah. GREAT artwork! And I liked Dodolah's stories. Very Thousand and One Nights. ( )
  mrsrobin | Jun 24, 2017 |
I wrote quite a lengthy review which delved into the many reasons I didn't feel Habibi was designed to be offensive. I illustrated the sensitivity Thompson showed the subject and the fantastic nature of the story. I talked about authorial intent and explored each of the complaints raised against Habibi, one by one. Then I decided to scrap it and start all over again.

I do believe Thompson empathized greatly with his Arabic and female characters. I believe his intentions were largely pure and made of love. I think he was striving to write a fairy tale about the depravity of humanity; setting it in an Arabic landscape may have given the impression that Thompson was dehumanizing Arabs, but I believe he would've given the same treatment to any people regardless of the setting. I also think that the abuse he subjected Dodola to throughout this novel was not meant to glorify rape and sexual trauma. As a reader, I felt Dodola's anguish and thought her very strong and wise. Of all the characters, she was the most humanized. Yet, others read her as a weak portrayal of women, a submissive character designed to embolden male lusts.

Rather than go into all my arguments again, I've decided it doesn't matter what I believe. The fact is, this novel, wonderful and nearly perfect in so many ways, also carries with it much hurt. One may see the hurt and say, “My heart bleeds for these characters. I want to help women who suffer from this kind of abuse.” Others will justify their own feelings of hatred and say, “Finally, an accurate depiction of those nasty Muslims.” And some may respond with hurt and say, “How dare he! Thompson is a misogynist and a racist!” None of these responses can be controlled and authorial intent doesn't matter when you're the one whose emotions have been stirred.

Habibi is an emotionally engaging book, as is indicated by the huge number of both five star and one star reviews this novel has garnered since it was published in 2011. Thompson's depictions of both the Middle East and of women can be troubling, depending on which lens you're viewing them with. Personally, I saw the hurt subjected by a depraved species; I did not see an object of hatred, but rather a letter written in love. Perhaps Thompson got some things wrong. Perhaps he would've done better to have stayed out of the Middle East. I'd be happy to share my more detailed thoughts with any who might be interested, but rather than add fuel to the argument and possibly cause more pain, I'll leave those thoughts out of my review proper.

Though I only began reading graphic novels a little over a year ago, I recognize the artistry and innovation of Habibi. It is the most well constructed and intelligent graphic novel I've read. It is lush with imagery that one could spend years dissecting. It blends worlds, periods, and ideologies, and does so without the reader even noticing. Yet, there could've been more. For such a lengthy book, I didn't feel I really got to understand Dodola or Zam. Giving us more about who they were might have made it easier to view them as more than simple victims and increased the empathy readers had for them.

Habibi is an epic story that bleed in black ink all over these 670 pages. It can be viewed as a gorgeous outpouring of emotion, or an embittered tirade against justice. One cannot deny, for better or worse, Craig Thompson has ushered in a new era in graphic novels. ( )
  chrisblocker | May 31, 2017 |
I seem to be a bit biased with Thompson as I love his artwork, however, this is the second of the challenged books as mentioned in my Blankets review. Onward!
Habibi is a tale of parallelisms within a love story. The parallelisms of the Abrahamic religions: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity; and the parallelisms of first to third world countries. If you pay attention close enough, the worlds within the worlds will change before your eyes without even leaving the country. The love story also flows from motherly to lover (READ THE BOOK - its not like that) as Dodola and Zam grow together as child slave refugees. Remember my bias with Craig Thompson's artwork? He spent years with Arabic mentors who helped him with the religion and calligraphy and language that just made the beauty and magic of the storytelling more wondrous. Again, this book would not be for students as I would not pick that fight. However it carries a powerful message, that we are all the same on this earth. ( )
1 vote rparks | Oct 6, 2016 |
Simultaneously, too religious and too sexually violent. Not my cup of tea.
  swelldame | Sep 29, 2016 |
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. ( )
  krau0098 | May 27, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 70 (next | show all)
When I had finished reading Habibi, I thought, well, it's Orientalist, it's misogynist, but damn, he learned how to write Arabic calligraphy well. ... To my surprise, I discovered from reports of people who had seen Thompson read and discuss his work, that though he had learned the basics of the alphabet, the intricate calligraphy in the book was all traced from outside sources. ... But this is simply one more example of the shallowness that undergirds the entire work: a laudable impulse to learn more, to reverse prejudice, was followed by a lazy embrace of Burton over Said, of voyeurism over empowerment, and tracing over writing. Habibi is a beautiful book and a terrible book. I am grateful for how much it has offended me. I could almost burn it.
 
And that is Habibi’s ultimate strength. All its cleverness, all its density, all its intricacy, are brought together in the service of one simple but all-too-easily-forgotten point: There is no way through this life but with each other. That is the foundation for Thompson’s interlocking patterns, its self-evidence obscured from our view like the scratched-out shapes that form a letter. Thankfully we have a writer like Thompson around to focus our gaze.
added by Serviette | editNational Post, David Berry (Sep 23, 2011)
 
Habibi, which the eye perceives as a celebration of life force, settles in the mind as a campaign of punishment. Gaze upon its beauty and despair
 
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"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" -- dust jacket wrap.… (more)

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