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Saturday, October 27, 2018

Reader's Diary #1939- Don Brown: The Unwanted

On page 10 of Don Brown's graphic novel, The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees, two people in a war  street turn to face the reader. (I almost said the "camera".) The first person's speech balloon says, "They evicted people from their houses and burned all of their possessions, and they burned down the houses of opposition members. Many people died." The second says, "It was a peaceful demonstration-- no weapons, nothing."

This technique of having characters mid-action state something about it but in the past tense is employed by Brown many times after that but it never really loses its effectiveness. They come across as actual quotes (because they are, as Brown references at the end), and therefore stark reminders that this is real, not just a graphic novel, real people, not characters.

That said, voices like the second person quoted above who deny the tragic brutality of Assad's regime and the ensuing civil war, are fortunately minimal. Still, Brown doesn't skirt the complexities but rather addresses them head on and easy to grasp. In his end notes, he states that the situations were even more complex than he portrayed, but I think he did an admirable job of balancing important perspectives against simplicity and maintaining the humanity of the victims. I found myself thinking a lot about the people in the caravans being reported now heading toward the United States.

The art reminded of some French illustrators (such as Nicolas de Crécy), quick, sketchy, and coloured with watercolours. The line work suits the chaotic scene, while the paint seems to ground the story and even give it historical significance.

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