Title: How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less
Author: Sarah Glidden
Release Date: August 30, 2011
Genre: Nonfiction, Comics, Graphic Memoir, Trave;
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Sarah Glidden, a nonreligious Jewish young woman, decided to take a Birthright Israel trip, braced for the Zionist propaganda that would be thrown at her. She was ready to dismiss everything she learned, but once she arrived, she realized the situation was much more complicated than she believed and that it’s easy to judge when you don’t fully understand what’s happening.
This graphic memoir mixes a coming of age story with a great travelogue. Glidden expresses her anxiety and uncertainty through her art, giving the reader insight into her conflicted emotions during her trip.
Sarah Glidden’s graphic memoir is a fascinating story about one woman’s emotional coming of age. Sarah Glidden went into her Birthright Israel trip with many preconceived notions. She believed that those who ran the trip and the people she met would be trying to “brainwash” her into being pro-Israel, into forgetting the plight of the Palestinians. Sarah’s own boyfriend was Muslim (Pakistani Muslim, not Arab), and she was determine to come out of the trip still supporting the original inhabitants of the land, rather than the usurpers, as she saw them.
It’s so interesting to watch Sarah change over the course of How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less. It’s not that she becomes an full-throated Zionist or anything close; and indeed, she’s correct that parts of the Birthright trip did have the feel of propaganda. But what surprises Sarah (and the reader) is that the people she’s meeting aren’t fervent, blind supporters of Israel. They recognize there are problems with the way Israel acts. Sarah’s biggest realization on her trip is that the problems facing both the Israelis and Palestinians are huge and massive; the issues are historic and endemic. By believing she could come up with a solution for, or at least a full understanding of, the entire conflict on one trip, was was naive at best. Glidden realizes she didn’t even have a basic grasp of how deep and broad the issues really go, and there are no easy answers facing them.
Glidden writes and illustrates How to Lose Israel in 60 Days or Less, and she does an amazing job. Her emotions come through in every panel; readers can see the conflict within her. The art in the book isn’t detailed or intricate; it feels like a journal, something she wrote every day of the trip, and it’s very effective. The drawings are loose and vague, allowing the reader to look deeper into each panel, to feel Glidden’s uncertainty through the roundness of her lines. It’s so interesting to consider the emotions that comics can convey, and this is a really good choice to really analyze that.
Graphic memoirs are a great place to start with comics, and How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less is no exception. The mixture of coming of age themes with a travelogue filled with fascinating details makes for a great read, and should definitely be on the list of memoir fans generally.