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1,6741017,988 (4.01)100
"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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English (93)  French (3)  Spanish (2)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (101)
Showing 1-5 of 93 (next | show all)
A beautiful, gorgeous, stunning graphic novel that deals with Arabic culture and language as much as it does the story of Dodola and Zam. And if it were just that, it'd be 5 stars.

But it's not just that. Dodola and Zam meet as slaves, Dodola claiming the terrified and abandoned Zam as her own, and they survive in the desert as long as they can, Zam finding water and Dodola approaching rare caravans and trading her body for food. While this is depressing, it's an unfortunate situation for many women in history and recent times, and the love and understanding she and Zam have is more than enough for Dodola to be happy. While she is forced into prostitution to survive, it's always her own choice and determination that have her do so, avoiding the typical "victim" framing that's the conventional approach. Throughout her life Dodola has been used for her body, and this is simply her reclaiming that object for her own use.

So far so good!

Of course, a 12-year old girl raising a 3-year old boy is going to cause some problems, and Thompson certainly does not shy away from that. Zam's eventual sexual awakening is a source of confusion and frustration to him, especially as it really, truly awakens as he hides and witnesses his mother/sister/friend Dodola violently raped on one of her caravan visits. (Speaking of: it is very detailed and very graphic. And with the frequency with which it reappears, in memories and fantasies, almost borders on the voyeuristic and sadistic.)

And then the book takes an... uncomfortable turn. Or at least I felt uncomfortable reading it, and I can't quite pinpoint why. The tragedy of it all? The careless mistakes that lead to it Zam didn't need to become a eunuch, and clearly suffers for it. If he had someone to talk him through what was happening and to let him know it was normal, it never would have happened.? The weird sexuality that begins to pervade everything Of course it makes sense in certain contexts: Dodola is a concubine and Zam is struggling with the fact that he has a sexuality at all. But Why does Dodola decide to see Zam as a sexual being once they reunite? The boy she mourned for as her son? And, really, what was the point of her pregnancy and loss of her actual son? She didn't even care (which, of course. She was numb and terrified and hated everything. But the experience didn't even change her).?

An aside: for all of Thompson's depictions of sex and sexuality and nudity, we see very few penises (if any). This makes no sense. Either he's trying to normalize nudity, in which case it's a glaring oversight, or he is merely providing this gratuitous female nudity as titillation, which is gross. Where are the penises when Dodola is being raped? Surely that would amplify the horror the reader is meant to feel. Where are the scars of the eunuchs? Surely that would drive home the finality and cruelty of Zam's "solution." ( )
  Elna_McIntosh | Sep 29, 2021 |
The story is heartbreaking, the art visually sumptuous. No need to say more than that. ( )
  bdgamer | Sep 10, 2021 |
Love story between a young courtesan and her adopted "son" escaping to live in an abandoned boat in the desert, and how they grow together. They are separated and do terrible things to themselves to survive, only to be reunited as Habibi is supposed to drown Dadolo and instead rescues her. Together again, they have to reveal their secrets in order to move on. ( )
  skipstern | Jul 11, 2021 |
39.00 ( )
  MRMP | Jan 9, 2021 |
39.00 ( )
  MRMP | Jan 9, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 93 (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.

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