Cox, Rebecca A., editor. WEST BANK: A COLLECTION OF GRAPHIC NOVELS. 2010. Project Hope. Canada & Palestine.

West Bank Book Review by Theresa Wolfwood

“From language, photography and art classes to summer camps and projects such as drama and mural painting, Project Hope attempts to provide a safe haven for children and youth to learn and heal the psychological traumas of the occupation.” from the introduction

Project Hope, a Canadian NGO in the West Bank, based in Nablus, has, in this unique collection, published the seldom seen or heard thoughts and creative work of young Palestinians. It is the remarkable and successful result of a project to give students at the An–Najah University in Nablus the skills to write and illustrate in cartoon strip format – the graphic novel. The resulting twelve stories are poignant and vivid and the illustrations are powerful and well defined by each contributor.

All the stories are important documents of life under occupation from the personal perspective of a young person facing the uncertainty of daily life, never knowing when life will be changed by the violence of the occupier, yet most stories end with optimistic action. In The Lost Olives, Amnah Dweikat, who grew up in a refugee camp, shows the destruction of olive trees by Israeli settlers. She concludes on a note of hope – the act of planting new trees. In her opening statement she invites everyone, especially other artists, to come to Palestine to see for themselves the difference between media myths and reality.

In Freedom to Play, Samia Abu Ra´ed shows a school attacked by the occupiers, children injured and in hospital; in the final frame they return to their school and together show their desire to return to learning.

In Free Reign, an imaginative story of horses that cannot recognize borders, Islam Al–Ashqar, uses the animals as symbols of determined Palestinians seeking the freedom to return to their lost lands behind the Wall,. At the end they confront the occupier at one of the hundreds of checkpoints Palestinians, including this author, must endure daily.

All the stories are different; some personal, some religious in tone and most are political reflecting life under occupation. I liked the personal stories of each contributor. I wish their photos were included. An excellent effort and worthy of wide distribution.

(Project Hope Canada Website: www.projecthope.ca)

Filed under Book Reviews, Rebecca A. Cox