Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Jewish Book Month: A Graphic Novel Set in Israel


Today's entry for Jewish Book Month Bingo is a graphic novel! I originally reviewed this book in May of 2012.

jobnik! by Miriam Libicki. Published 2008 by real gone girls studio. Graphica.

I seem to be spending a lot of my reading time in Israel these days!

I picked up jobnik! quite a while ago; I'm always attracted to graphic novels set in Israel for some reason and I found Miriam Libicki's memoir of her Israel Defense Force service at my local comics shop. I love this particular store because they always stock interesting small-press graphica and comics I can't find at other bookstores, and jobnik! appealed to my interest in graphica by women as well.

Miriam is an American Jew who moved to Israel in her late teens and joined the army, but military life is tough on her. Written diary-style in detailed and captivating pencil drawings, the reader follows Miriam's time as a secretary in the IDF; her depression has disqualified her for combat and she's serving as a jobnik, an IDF soldier on office duties. We see her relationships with fellow soldiers, her visits home, time spent with friends, and her interior struggles with depression and sexual relationships.  Unfortunately she has a pattern of getting involved with men who take advantage of her and treat her badly.

She also struggles with her religious identity and sense of belonging. She comes from an observant household but finds herself on the outs often, trying to adhere to modesty rules and establish boundaries with men. This, as you maybe can tell, she has little success with. She doesn't offer any insight into the reasons for her evident lack of self-worth but she seems to find a place for herself in the army, and some things to value and friends to care about. I liked Miriam and rooted for her but I was frustrated by her poor self-esteem and patterns of poor choices. I was gratified to see her grow some during the course of the book though.

I think what I enjoyed most about jobnik! was Libicki's art. There's just something very arresting for me about pencil-drawn panels and art; it feels more immediate to me than inked pictures, like you can really see the artist's hand at work. Her art reminded me of Nicolai Maslov's staggering Siberia, also entirely pencil-drawn. Libicki creates some very atmospheric scenes of the outdoors; the night sky depicted cover of the book in particular is staggering in its pencil version about a third of the way into the book.

jobnik! is moving and interesting as a coming-of-age story but I think most of its appeal will be to readers who are interested in Israel and depictions of life in the IDF. Throughout the book and playing like background music to Miriam's personal trials is the Al Aqsa uprising and other political and military troubles associated with the occupation, and the stress of army life weighs heavily on her. Not being intimately familiar with the events to which she refers, it was a little difficult for me to get involved emotionally in that aspect of her story, but I think readers more fluent in Israeli current events would get more out of it.

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

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