ISLAMOPHOBIA / ISLAMOPHILIA:
Dr. Kuiper mentioned this book several times throughout the class I had with him last semester, so I put it on my summer reading list. When I started it I was slightly disappointed to find that it's a collection of essays rather than one sustained consideration of the terms in the title. Basically, Islamophilia is often a response to rampant Islamophobia, but both are problematic in that they're both too simplistic, reducing Islam and Muslim individuals and communities to caricatures, rather than taking the time for nuance, subtlety, or accuracy. The essays here intend to show some of the complex ways in which Muslim communities interact with each other and with non-Muslim groups and systems, highlighting the role and influence of Islamophobia and Islamophilia in such interactions, and in the discourse surrounding them. My favorite chapters were Lara Deeb's look at Shi'i women in Lebanon, Paul Silverstein's essay on Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in France and North Africa, and Esra Özyürek's consideration of German converts to Islam and their perceptions of Muslim immigrants. Mucahit Bilici's chapter on Muslim comedians was also good, but I'd already read it in his own book, Finding Mecca in America, which I found to be more focused and memorable than this one.
BRAZEN: REBEL LADIES WHO ROCKED THE WORLD
Short affectionate comix about 29 badass women. Fun, funny, and genuinely inspiring.
PRINCE VALIANT, VOL. 1 1937 - 1937
Got this at the library early one Friday evening when I was feeling a lil sad. The first few story arcs were my favorite, when Val is not yet a knight and just sneaking around uncovering mysteries in the marshes, hiding from monsters and getting cursed. According to an interview with Foster at the beginning of the book, Merlin's sorcery and all the other magic faded out in future years of the comic, as he consciously chose to make it more realistic. Which is fine; the gorgeous, detailed art seems like a great medium for "bringing history to life" or whatever. The problem is, in the same interview, Foster admits that most of the visuals aren't actually historically realistic or accurate: "Most of the castles in Prince Valiant are not authentic in that they are Norman castles: when King Arthur lived there were mostly remnants of Roman fortresses that had been set up during the Roman occupation; castles were subsequently built during the Norman conquest. The picture we have of the days of King Arthur was given by the Norman story-writers: it is they who fostered this legend. So you must dress the characters almost like Norman knights rather than Roman centurions - they are dressed in the way that I thing they should be dressed. I have to bring the costumes and the castles up by two or three centuries." So you're willing to do all that but also not willing to let Merlin do some magic?? Maybe you're just not my dude, dude. I did enjoy this volume though; the adventures are fun and Hal has created a world that I wanted to immerse myself in. I just wanted it to stay slightly stranger: Witches with ogreous sons, mysterious swamp creatures, wizards casting nightmare spells, and a hero who makes masks out of duckskin to terrify his enemies will always be more fun and exciting to me than one who enters knightly tournaments and single handedly defeats fifty Viking warriors.
Didier Lefevre, a French photographer, documented a Doctors Without Borders mission to Pakistan and Afghanistan in 1986. Years later he told the story of his trip to his friend the illustrator Emmanuel Guibert, who made it into this graphic novel, using his own illustrations and Didier's photos.
Early on in the book, Didier suggests something to one of the other French guys on the team: "The theory is that in Afghanistan nice guys look nice guys and bad guys look like bad guys." His comment seems to be at least partially a joke, but it affected the way I read the rest of the book. Looking at Didier's photos and portraits, I couldn't help but wonder what he thought of each person. Did he decide this guy was "nice" or "bad"? Almost everyone looked "nice" to me, though for whatever reason I seem to instinctively like and trust men with beards. However Didier felt about Afghanis, he was good at taking pictures of them; there are quite a few great photos in here. But even though it's a large book, the page layouts are often quite crowded. It's usually fine for Emmanuel Guibert's drawings, but most of Didier's photographs are forced into comix-style panels, with eight or more small photos often appearing on a single page. Combining the two formats looks good and works well, but I wish there had been more full page or half page photos.
I tried to find some of Didier's photography books, but mobius doesn't have any of them, and they're pretty expensive on amazon. Although not much that was pleasant or fun happened in this book, it still kind of made me want to go to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
other books I read this month: