Graphic novels based on history are pretty much my favorite. I mean, straight up, I love most graphic novels and comics and if you put one in front of me, I won’t exactly say no. When I saw Jerusalem: A Family Portrait by filmmaker Boaz Yakin illustrated by Nick Bertozzi on Netgalley, I knew I had to immediately download it as the book covers a part of history that I honestly do not have much knowledge about. We didn’t spend much time on this era in high school history and none of the classes I took in college covered it as well. So, what better way to get a stronger understanding than by reading a book? While I am not exactly an expert on the Israeli-Palestine conflict after reading Jerusalem: A Family Portrait, I do feel more educated.
Jerusalem: A Family Portrait is about the Halaby family. Two brothers emigrated to Israel. One brother, Yakov ends up fairly prosperous and wealthy. The other brother, Izak ends up fairly impoverished and his family struggles to make ends meet, as the book pretty much opens with Izak’s apartment being raided by bill collectors so that they might pay rent to Yakov who owns the apartment. This really sets the tone for Yakin’s book. Jerusalem: A Family Portrait is definitely an epic, weighing in at 400 pages and it spans 8 years. There’s a lot going down in the book, which makes this read almost as complex as the issues within it’s pages.
My whole take on the whole Israeli-Palestinian thing has always been ‘why can’t they just chill out and get along?’ Obviously, this opinion fails to consider all of the deeper complications and issues involved with that. And so, in Jerusalem: A Family Portrait we see how the British are total douchebags to the Jews. We see how some Jews actually get along with the Muslims in the area. We also see how strife happens between the two groups. We see the rise of the Zionist movement in this book — which okay, I also still don’t entirely understand. And you know what, I am okay with that. I am okay with admiting that I do not entirely get the complexity of an issue. And you know? There’s nothing wrong with that. What I do know is that Yakin works in The Tempest and the Biblical story of Jacob and Essau into Jerusalem: A Family Portrait, thus putting the socio-political implications and the very micro family issues into terms that a book worm like I could understand.
While I was not IN LOVE with the art in Jerusalem: Family Portrait, I did think that Nick Bertozzi did a competent job as illustrator. My thing is, I kept getting confused as to which character was which. I suspect this is more the medium that I read it on — Adobe Digital Editions, so I couldn’t exactly quick flip to the family tree diagram of all the characters at the beginning when I was confused. I will say, there are certain parts that are ‘graphic’, yeah totally a pun, and hard to see. Yet, I think that it just adds right to the punch of the book.
I found Boaz Yakin’s graphic novel to be immensely readable. I was a tiny bit worried it might go over my head or be too scary/graphic – because you know, real life things scare me more than monsters/horror books. Yet, those fears thankfully did not come to fruition. What I ended up reading was a tale of two brothers reflecting two great works of literature – The Tempest and The Bible. While my religious leanings remain something I keep to myself, I do think that the ‘good book’ is beautifully written, and so I liked how it was incorporated into Jerusalem: A Family Portrait. It actually really made a lot of sense.
In all, I’d consider Jerusalem: A Family Portrait a must read for anyone interested in a more personal story about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As for age recommendations, I can’t really see this book in a high school classroom as there’s illustrations of sex and death and bodies. But, that’s not to say teenagers shouldn’t read it. By all means, this is an awesome read and definitely one that teens would like. This book though, is likely best suited to an adult audience, but again I’m not going to be like teens don’t read this, at all. If you’re looking for a new graphic novel to check out with serious and deep meaning, get your hands on Boaz Yakin’s Jerusalem: A Family Portrait.
Disclosure: Received for review via Netgalley
Other reviews of Jerusalem: A Family Portrait by Boaz Yakin:
Graphic Policy – “a piece of history presented in an easy to digest form.”