Genre: Memoir, graphic novel
Medium: French paperback
Synopsis: Riad is a small, white-passing child whose hair is a beautiful gold color. He wants to be a doctor when he grows up, and he’s not very enthusiastic about having a little brother. He also lives in Syria. Riad is just beginning school where he’s facing the difficulties of learning to read in a completely different language, as well as the possibility of being punished with a swift smack on the hands with a baton. He’s hoping to fit in, but most of the kids his age thinks he’s Jewish–something that’s not taken very well in these parts. His parents are having difficulties, what with his father (Syrian) working as a professor and having generally a good time, and his mother (French) staying at home cooking, cleaning, and having a hard time adjusting. In this tome, Riad studies hard, makes new friends, meets people in high places, and overhears the story of a murder in the family.
Review: This tome is just as good as the first. Sattouf continues to introduce new information to us as the new information is introduced to him as a small child, which makes learning about Syria, Libya, their cultures, and their histories informative and fun.
Riad still faces troubles with being called Jewish (which is not a good thing in those parts), his mother still faces troubles with adjusting to her new life, and his father still faces troubles with reconciling his nostalgia with the current state of his living situation.
Sattouf finds just the right tone between explanatory and humorous to show the reader just what life was like for him. Sometimes, his life was just like any other little boy’s–playing with his friends and wandering around town–but sometimes his life was unlike anything I could have even imagined. And, with the perspective of little 7-year-old Riad, we are able to understand the difficulties in his parents’ marriages and the state of the countries in which they live.
Sattouf expertly takes the difficult subject of living as a cultural (French) and racial (white-passing) outsider in a foreign country (which, let’s be honest, white folks tend to find rather frightening), and makes it not only easy for us to understand, but easy for us to find juxtaposition and humor as well. This is why L’Arabe du futur series is something that I would recommend to everybody who loves either history, memoirs, or graphic novels.