book review: habibi

I gave Craig Thompson’s comic tome Habibi as an Xmas present without having read it. His book Blankets is a classic, and I hadn’t heard a bad thing about this one so I felt confident. After putting it in the recipient’s hands I managed to commandeer enough time to get through it and pat myself on the back for giving a really good gift.

It’s the story of two slaves who have a complicated relationship. Dodola is a nine-year-old girl when the story starts and Zam is much younger. They live in the middle of the desert getting food from passing caravans. The story is told in a shifting timescale and we see many points in their lives without immediate explanations, then circle back to them.

It’s a beautifully drawn world where there are sultans and harems from the Arabian Nights, but also hydroelectric projects and massive cities with urban filth and motorization. There are treatises on calligraphy, and so many stories and legends being retold, especially in varying forms between the Quran and the Bible. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking what happens to these characters in their lives.

It’s the kind of book that deserves coming back to for more than one reading because of the intricate way it’s woven together. I’ll have to add it to my own collection soon.

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