Saturday, January 9, 2016


by Joe Sacco

At this point in my life, after spending just about all of it reading comics, I'm always a little surprised when I realized what some of my gaps are.  For example, I've never read a complete Joe Sacco book before now.  Palestine collects his individual comic books from the mid-90s, recounting his visit to that unfortunate place.

I don't know what kind of response this book got when it came out, but it clearly wasn't strong or outraged enough.  In this book, Sacco walks around the towns and refugee camps of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, going into peoples' homes, hearing their stories, and observing their living conditions.  He gives a very honest portrayal of Palestinian life as it was twenty years ago.

That things have only gotten worse in this occupied land is unbelievable to me.  I don't want to get into my political thinking here, but as someone who likes to see himself as a humanist, this book made me angry and sad.  Knowing that, were Sacco to find these same people and talk to them again, their lives are not likely improved, is a tragedy.

I think the main reason why I never read a Sacco book is because his art kind of turns me off.  His people are strange looking, and their teeth disturb me.  That said, his draftsmanship is great, and his establishing shots, or his panoramas of Palestinian life, really impress.

It took me a little while to adjust to his use of cascading text boxes, and the overall wordiness of this book, but by the time I had read the first three issues collected here, I was hooked.  Sacco should be admired for the bravery and sensitivity he brought to this comic, and I liked the way he kept himself front and centre, providing us a perspective to react through.  This is a classic piece of graphic literature.

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