Craig Thompson is mainly known for his long-form graphic novel, Blankets. While Blankets is a beautiful account of Thompson's first love, and deserves every award it has received, I felt this week could be spent reading the GN he created afterward: Habibi.
There are a lot of people who have issues with this book. The depictions of life in a harem are stereotypical Orientalist fare, and the main character, Dodola, is subject to non-consensual sex almost clear through all 672 pages. I felt like that was the point, though. Thompson made the Dodola's life so brutal and tragic that when she finally finds the person who loves her most in the world, the feeling is that much better.
I could just be talking out of my butt, of course.
There's a push these days for making everyone comfortable. I'm all for equal-opportunity nudity (see my Game of Thrones post), but Habibi revolves around a girl who, from age 9, was consistently taken advantage of by the worst of men. Unfortunately, we do live in a world where some people have the worst luck, and I don't think it's wrong to tell stories about characters who never catch a break. I wouldn't read those stories all the time, but I think there's room for them. Many of the scenes in this book are graphic, and blatant sexism runs rampant. I wonder, though, if anyone would react the same way had the sex scenes been replaced by guns, gore, and blood? It's still violence.
As for the Orientalism, I'm on the fence. I have a feeling the people who don't like the stereotypical depictions of the ancient Middle East in this GN are the same people who love watching Disney's Aladdin over and over again. Yes, it's over the top. No, I wouldn't tout this GN as a realistic description of Middle Eastern culture. That's kind of like saying that Disney's Tarzan is an exact account of life in Africa (don't even get me started on people who think Africa is one country with no variation and no civilization).
Is this a graphic novel worth reading? Yes, at least for the gorgeous artwork. Is it a "good" GN?
I honestly don't know.
That's up to you, I guess.