Baddawi is a greatly engaging tale of a boy named Ahmad growing up in a refugee camp told in the form of a visually rich graphic novel, written by the boy’s daughter, Leila Abdelrazaq.
Leila Abdelrazaq is in her twenties, and recalls being told stories from her father about what his life was like growing up. With her work process, it was the images that came first and then the words.
On hearing those same stories told over and over, she got to know them by heart.
This is where the ideas for the graphic novel came from.
The graphic novel explores these stories of her father’s childhood, growing up in Baddawi, (the name of a refugee camp in Northern Lebanon) throughout the ’60s and ’70s. During the civil war, he moved between Baddawi and Beirut.
Leading up to the end of the war he, like many others, thought he might be able to return to Palestine to live, but it wasn’t to be.
Ahmad is just one of the many thousands of refugee children born to Palestinians who fled their homeland after the war in 1948 established the state of Israel.
What I find incredibly interesting about the graphic novel is that among such uncertainty, you come across someone with such determination—her father.
Leila’s mom is American, and her dad Palestinian. She grew up in-between the United States and South Korea, where her father was working for a while. She is now based and living back in the U.S., and she isn’t writing the story because it is unique, she is writing it because it is a story that has been lived and is being lived by Palestinian refugees.
Leila Abdelrazaq very wonderfully says: “People who are experiencing these adverse circumstances, they’re not objects of pity; they are subjects of their own narrative, their own life.”
Baddawi can be brought here.
And a link to another Palestinian political cartoonist Naji Al-Ali, whose work she is influenced by can be found here.
I would love to hear what her father thinks of the graphic novel she made from his stories, and what his reaction was the first time he read it. I look forward to seeing what Leila Abdelrazaq ends up doing next.