During the last few months, I have dived headfirst into the wonderful comic called Barefoot Gen, by Keiji Nakazawa. The ten volume story is set in Japan during the bombing of Hiroshima. The story is autobiographical, the author survived the bombing and lost his father, brother and sister. Eventually the effects from the bomb claim his mother and many other people he cares deeply about. Yet Gen is not a victim, I think he chooses to be a witness; a witness to the horrors of modern warfare. He is the type of witness that won’t keep quiet about what he knows, because he knows that the people who started the war made lots of money of it, and were not held accountable for starting the war and their actions. There are ten books in this manga series, and each book brings joy and tears to the reader who patiently descends into this dark and watery place with Gen.
Gen is a spunky kid. His goal is to eliminate the threat of nuclear weapons from this world, and make sure people understand, so they are never used again. His goal extends to ending all wars that are started by greedy people, who make money off the war. Like Gen, his friends and companions along the way are also strong, smart and funny. Gen is a prickly kid, he develops his wildness, something that is necessary for a young man. A boy must first learn to be wild, and then you become a man when you learn to walk among society with your sword sheathed.
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As refugees flee war and persecution, and as governments strike deals to limit and funnel the flow, certain areas become bottlenecks for refugees on the move. They are stuck in limbo, in summer tents, in overcrowded camps that are beyond capacity, as the winter approaches yet again. Overcrowding, lack of clean water and sanitation, lack of mental health services all plague the camps. Nobody would want themselves or their families to be stuck like this. The refugees have been using the tool of nonviolent protest to bring attention to their situation. Now is the time for governments to step up and relocate them to safe areas. One such bottleneck is Greece. This is a comic I made describing the conditions of the camps on the Greek Islands, where thousands of refugees are stranded, waiting for an extremely slow bureaucratic process of asylum.
After making this comic, I found a graphic novel at the library that deals with similar issues:
Graphic Novel Review
“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)
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.
Read my review here.