Review: ‘Zahra’s Paradise’ by Amir and Khalil

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For the last eight months, I’ve been reading nothing but graphic novels and comics. I figured that if I was going to write one myself, I’d do well to immerse myself in that world as much as possible. During that time, I’ve read some iffy ones, some good ones and some that made me want to curl up into a little ball and give up any and all dreams of ever writing again (see pic).

Zahra’s Paradise by Amir and Khalil is one of those books…

Zahra’s Paradise started off as a free webcomic but the power of social media turned that little webcomic, about life in Iran after the 2009 elections, into a literary phenomenon. It has since been published by First Second Books. Below is an excerpt of my review for Hyphen Magazine or click here for the full article.

“Zahra’s Paradiseis a fictionalized account about the search for a young university student, Mehdi, who fails to come home one night after participating in the protests. It is also the story of his mother, Zahra, and brother, Hassan, as they navigate through Iran’s labyrinthine bureaucracy in an attempt to track him down. The book is written and illustrated pseudonymously by ‘Amir’ and ‘Khalil’ — an Iranian American activist and an Algerian artist respectively — and is packed with literal and figurative criticisms against the Islamic Revolution, Ahmedinejad, and the Ayatollah. They are depicted variously as vultures, scarecrows, and at one point, even as cannibalistic machines intent on “feeding their morgues.” So, it comes as no surprise that both the author and illustrator have chosen the protection of pseudonyms.”

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