Thursday, December 1, 2011

REVIEW: How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, by Sarah Glidden

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, by Sarah Glidden. Published 2010 by Vertigo/DC Comics. Graphica. Nonfiction.

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less is a graphic memoir by writer and artist Sarah Glidden, about her Birthright trip to Israel as a younger woman. Birthright is an organization dedicated to encouraging a connection between Diaspora Jews and Israel by sponsoring trips to the Holy Land for young people. The idea is to give young people a first-hand experience of Israeli life to help them develop a personal relationship with the country and a sense of belonging there. It's also the story of how one of these young people let down her guard, learned to see past her own cynicism and came back convinced only of how much she didn't know.

Sarah gets on the plane for Israel convinced that she will be fed nonstop pro-Israeli propaganda for the duration of her trip, and she takes every opportunity to poke holes in the things her guides tell her. Rather than feel close to Israel, she seems to be alienated and confused by the contradictory information coming in. At the same time, she meets Jews from lots of different backgrounds who do feel grounded by the trip and delight in being in a Jewish environment for maybe the first time in their lives. She meets enthusiastic Zionist supporters, gets a taste of some Eurocentric discrimination and more. In short, she learns a lot.

How to Understand Israel is a story about someone coming to understand herself better and I think it would be a great book for readers who have either asked themselves a lot of questions about this mercurial country or no questions at all. The visual style is attractive but I didn't find it extraordinary or anything; there's not a lot of variation in the panels or design and the story is mainly told through the dialogue and action. Nonetheless it's a worthwhile book and a story guaranteed to stay with you and make you think.


FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.

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