A photograph of a poppy next to the Yezidi Shrine of Khiz Rahman in Baadre, Iraqi Kurdistan, taken by Levi Clancy in 2017.

Poppies of Iraq: A Review

Poppies of IraqIn their new graphic memoir about her life growing up in Iraq, Brigitte Findakly and her husband Lewis Trondheim shed light on the interior lives of middle-class Iraqis under Saddam Hussein’s rule in the mid-20th century. Poppies of Iraq does for 1970s Iraq what Persepolis did for 1970s Iran, putting a human face to stories tainted in the West by orientalism. And eventually, like Persepolis author Marjane Satrapi, Findakly moves to France to escape the political upheaval of her home country.

Poppies of Iraq centers on Findakly and her family, a tight-knit bunch of Orthodox Christians living in revolutionary Iraq. Christian families like Findakly’s occupy a strange space in the country at the time, not so persecuted as they will be after the end of Hussein’s rule, but in enough danger that the author’s father does not feel comfortable walking home from work after dark.

The story in Poppies of Iraq unfolds over a series of vignettes, most of which are no more than a page or two long. The quick jumps from glimpse to glimpse — here a conversation between parent and child, there a snapshot of a field trip to see executed enemies of the state — create a jarring effect that, while efficient in conveying Findakly’s sense of belonging and yet simultaneously not belonging in Iraq, make any fluid reading of the graphic novel difficult.

Because of this, readers who are new to graphic memoirs may find Poppies of Iraq a daunting book, in spite of its slim profile. Still, it is an excellent new addition to the genre, and well-worth picking up a copy.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.

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Image credit: Levi Clancy