Palestinian-American’s anticipated graphic novel reclaims her father’s narrative

Leila Abdelrazaq speaks about her graphic novel, Baddawi, at the Arab American Action Network, during her book launch on April 8
Leila Abdelrazaq speaks about her graphic novel, Baddawi, at the Arab American Action Network, during her book launch on April 8

Baddawi, a graphic novel written and illustrated by Palestinian-American, Leila Abdelrazaq, will transcend generations.

Abdelrazaq based the novel on the life of her father, who grew up in Baddawi, a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. She successfully seized a part of Palestinian history that has too often been hijacked by the oppressor.

I grew up in the United States and was enrolled in the Chicago Public School system until college and was never exposed to Palestinian literature or history. Baddawi is a novel I wish my younger self had available to him.

Abdelrazaq’s novel will give future students a realistic look into Palestinian culture and an important part of its history.

The novel gives readers a personal look into the life of a Palestinian boy who grew up in a refugee camp after his parents were forced out of their village in Palestine. Abdelrazaq tremendously shows how important moments in Palestinian history affected individuals.

Refugee camps are usually visualized with pity but Abdelrazaq’s novel reveals how they can be beautiful and vibrant despite the ugly scenarios the people living in them face.

While she humanized the camp her father grew up, she refused to humanize the violent oppressors. Abdelrazaq told the people in attendance at her book launch, on April 8, she drew the murderous soldiers as scary shadows because too often people have attempted to humanize the aggressors.

At her book launch at the Arab American Action Newtwork, she said, Baddawi began as comic strips she illustrated and uploaded to her website.  Just World Books reached out to Abdelrazaq to create the graphic novel after becoming familiar with her work.

Abdelrazaq’s novel will play a role in the education of young minds for years to come. The storyline and illustrations will keep readers wanting more.

Palestinians, like myself, will pass Baddawi down to their children who in turn will do the same.

Nader Ihmoud

Nader Ihmoud is a Palestinian-American journalist based in Chicago. He is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Palestine in America.

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