Graphic Novel Review by ThunderKhan
“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom. It was the age of foolishness.”
Threads from the Refugee Crisis By Kate Evans (UK, 2017)
The comic takes place in a French port town of Calais. Thousands of refugees are trapped there, in a squalid camp known as the Jungle. The camp is not well maintained or protected by the authorities; despite adequate funding. Volunteers do their best to improve the conditions in the camp.
The author of the comic, Kate Evans, travels many times to the camp; often bringing her loved ones along for the journey. Her goal is to help out in any way she can. Since Evans is an artist, she uses her art skills to help the refugees cope. Art can be a great way to help deal with an absurd and emotionally painful situation. Some refugees make art, some tell their stories, others pose for a hand-drawn portrait. With the volunteers, Evans completes a variety of tasks around the camp, trying to help in whatever way they can.
The frames to the panels are beautifully decorated with embroideries. The style of embroideries changes throughout the novel, which is a lovely effect. The threads are the stories that bind us all, the common stories we share with refugees. They are fleeing from war and climate change, they are mostly children and women, and most have been separated from their family members. For most of them, there is nothing they would like to do more than return home, but they cannot return because it’s not safe.
This book is full of lively people, who Evans renders with color, movement, and empathy. Pen, and possibly crayon and colored pencil all combine in a loose yet realistic style. I had to put the book down a few times so that I wouldn’t get overwhelmed by the stories.
One thing I really liked is throughout the book there are drawings of a cellphone with various text on the screen. The text on the screen are anonymous quotes from people that are obviously against refugees or who don’t understand. For example, part of one text reads “This cartoon could not be better propaganda for battlefield veteran Islamic militant males invading Northern Europe if Lenin himself produced it.” Another texts moans “These refugees are safe in France where they could claim asylum if they wanted 2 shame they want our benefits 2 much!” But the refugees don’t feel safe, because of the conditions in the camp. These texts show how certain people react without thinking and empathizing with their fellow humans. This mindset is one of fear; fear of the other, and fear of the scarcity of natural resources.
The comic makes an argument for open borders. The comic also outlines solutions to help settle refugees, benefiting both the refugees and the economy of the UK and other countries. Consider this quote from the book: “Mathematical modeling shows that removing all national barriers to migration would double the global GDP.” “The New Economic Case for Migration Restrictions,” Clemens and Pritchard. Febuary 2016, Institute for the Study of Labor, Center for Global Development.
Doubling the global GDP sounds like a good thing, if the following factors are not left out:
Protecting worker’s rights and the environment. Protecting human rights.
Making sure all these extra profits doesn’t just go to the richest people
The energy expended by all this extra productivity is as green as possible
With globalism and the efficiency of airline travel, open borders basically already exist for the rich. Do you think open borders are eventually imminent? Especially for countries with aging populations that want to stay competitive in a global market? I think they are. I’ll leave you with this: Let’s not forget the following three human rights, from the Declaration of Human Rights.
Article 13 Right to Free Movement in and out of the Country
Article 14 Right to Asylum in others Countries from Persecution
Article 15 Right to a Nationality and the Freedom to Change It
Why you should read this book:
If you would like to learn more about refugees, so you can take the next step and help them
If you are interested in journalism and comics
If you are a fan of Joe Sacco’s Palestine, Safe Area Gorazde, and books like Harvey Pekar’s Macedonia: What Does It Take to Stop a War, and Sarah Glidden’s Rolling Blackouts.