Habibi by Craig Thompson (2011). After reading Goodbye, Chunky Rice, Blankets, and Carnet de Voyage I knew that I would not be able to resist anything else that Thompson should ever choose to draw and write. And although it took me a couple years, this book club has finally given me the push to jump into Thompson's most recent book, Habibi, a long epic story of two orphans in a fictional Islamic country.
Dodola is 9 and Cham is 3 when they meet for the first time and she claims him as her brother in a slave market. When she escapes, she takes him with her and they live in an impoverished but happy peace out in the desert for six years before their partnership is brutally snatched away from them.
The first thing to say about this book is that it is absolutely gorgeous. The size and weight of it, the detail on the cover, and Thompson's wonderful drawings dare you to immerse yourself in the book and not come up for air until you've finished it.
The second thing to say about this book is that it is just as brutal as it is beautiful, and if you read it all in one chunk, you might have some kind of nervous breakdown. When I checked this one out from the library, the woman behind the desk said that she loved the book so much but that she could never read it again because it just hurt too much. I can understand how she felt, although the complexity of Thompson's drawings and story make me want to give this one another read where I can pay more attention to the page and less to the plot.
While some readers have taken issue with Thompson's portrayal of sexuality and Islamic culture, I think this book shows his own immersion in an unfamiliar world and his desire to share all he learned about the words and faith of Islam with the graphic-novel-reading West.
Finally: no one draws a naked woman quite like Craig Thompson.
[Check out some sketches and in-progress drawings here!]