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review 2018-01-30 09:48
Blankets (graphic novel) by Craig Thompson
Blankets - Craig Thompson

Blankets is the story of a young man coming of age and finding the confidence to express his creative voice. Craig Thompson's poignant graphic memoir plays out against the backdrop of a Midwestern winterscape: finely-hewn linework draws together a portrait of small town life, a rigorously fundamentalist Christian childhood, and a lonely, emotionally mixed-up adolescence. Under an engulfing blanket of snow, Craig and Raina fall in love at winter church camp, revealing to one another their struggles with faith and their dreams of escape. Over time though, their personal demons resurface and their relationship falls apart. It's a universal story, and Thompson's vibrant brushstrokes and unique page designs make the familiar heartbreaking all over again. This groundbreaking graphic novel, winner of two Eisner and three Harvey Awards, is an eloquent portrait of adolescent yearning; first love (and first heartache); faith in crisis; and the process of moving beyond all of that. Beautifully rendered in pen and ink, Thompson has created a love story that lasts.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

I've finally tackled this behemoth of a book (nearly 600 pages of text & illustrations!) after years of hearing it hyped up. In this graphic memoir, author Craig Thompson illustrates experiences from not only his childhood but also his story of that first big love. 

 

 

Thompson's parents here are described as fundamentalist Christians with the father being an extreme disciplinarian. WARNING: If you're at all squeamish or easily unnerved as a reader, be forewarned: there are scenes of child abuse and sexual abuse of minors depicted in this book. There are also numerous sketches of breasts and penis, if you are offended by that. 

 

In one scene, Thompson's father sticks Craig's younger brother in a spider-filled cubby hole and makes him stay there overnight after Craig and his brother got into a brotherly tussle, getting a little too loud and disturbing their parents. In a summer scene, the boys experience near heat exhaustion in their upstairs bedroom because the cheapskate father doesn't want to pay to run fans. The rage that man induced in me!

 

Fast forward a few years and teenage Craig meets Raina at a winter retreat for Christian teens. A friendship quickly develops that continues long-distance (once the retreat ends), until Raina invites Craig to her home for a few weeks visit. Once there, Craig is moved when he sees how mature and caring Raina is with her specials needs siblings. He admires how protective she is with her brother and sister, yet it stirs up feelings of guilt in him as he thinks about how poor a job he did keeping his own brother safe from predators. 

 

 

The way my friends have been talking up this book all these years as well as hearing how groundbreaking it was in the graphic novel / memoir genre in general, I was fully expecting a solid 5 star read for myself. Didn't quite get to 5 star level for me but I did thoroughly enjoy it. 

 

Having had a tough childhood experience myself, reading the panels in the early part of the story was not the most pleasant experience, but I appreciated Thompson's honesty in wanting to share the truth of his experiences. I also quite enjoyed the bluish-grey tones of the artwork. It was definitely key in building the atmosphere of the story. I was also impressed with Thompson's art style, the way it was simple, not too fussy, yet still conveyed movement.

 

 

I found the relationship between Craig & Raina lovely & sweet for the most part, particularly the idea of the tree painting! At times, their behavior seemed overly dramatic and angsty but ehh, they were teen characters... goes with the territory to some extent. I don't think I was always entirely invested in the story, as I caught myself a few times feeling tired, thinking it was taking me forever to make progress in the pages. But I did enjoy the reading experience overall. 

 

For those who are fans of Art Spiegelman (MAUS graphic novel) and Neil Gaiman, Thompson gives them shout-outs in the acknowledgements. 

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review 2017-06-09 04:57
Blankets
Blankets - Craig Thompson

This graphic novel has had so much hype and I can see, it reads very true to life in a small town and a religious family. Thompson clearly had a story to tell and the passion and intensity of the relationship in this book is something I feel like I saw in other teens relationships in the church when I was that age. This book has a lot of heavy and intense topics in it, and some of them aren’t completely explored which in some ways was very frustrating but I also think that it is accurate to life and the fact that this book is a memoir. That being said though the ending was so rushed I feel like it was done on a huge deadline and didn’t get the attention it deserved.

 

I would suggest it to people even if they aren’t usually into comics since the art in this book is interesting, while it’s huge it is a very quick read, and it’s a self-contained story. However I don’t think everyone is going to like this. I think my experience with the ultra-Christians and small town mentality helped buoy this story for me in a way that someone without at least one of those experiences may not have the same reaction to this story.

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review 2017-05-31 18:22
Review: Habibi
Habibi - Craig Thompson

I wrote quite a lengthy review which delved into the many reasons I didn't feel Habibi was designed to be offensive. I illustrated the sensitivity Thompson showed the subject and the fantastic nature of the story. I talked about authorial intent and explored each of the complaints raised against Habibi, one by one. Then I decided to scrap it and start all over again.

I do believe Thompson empathized greatly with his Arabic and female characters. I believe his intentions were largely pure and made of love. I think he was striving to write a fairy tale about the depravity of humanity; setting it in an Arabic landscape may have given the impression that Thompson was dehumanizing Arabs, but I believe he would've given the same treatment to any people regardless of the setting. I also think that the abuse he subjected Dodola to throughout this novel was not meant to glorify rape and sexual trauma. As a reader, I felt Dodola's anguish and thought her very strong and wise. Of all the characters, she was the most humanized. Yet, others read her as a weak portrayal of women, a submissive character designed to embolden male lusts.


Habibi - It's misogynist, racist...


Rather than go into all my arguments again, I've decided it doesn't matter what I believe. The fact is, this novel, wonderful and nearly perfect in so many ways, also carries with it much hurt. One may see the hurt and say, “My heart bleeds for these characters. I want to help women who suffer from this kind of abuse.” Others will justify their own feelings of hatred and say, “Finally, an accurate depiction of those nasty Muslims.” And some may respond with hurt and say, “How dare he! Thompson is a misogynist and a racist!” None of these responses can be controlled and authorial intent doesn't matter when you're the one whose emotions have been stirred.

Habibi is an emotionally engaging book, as is indicated by the huge number of both five star and one star reviews this novel has garnered since it was published in 2011. Thompson's depictions of both the Middle East and of women can be troubling, depending on which lens you're viewing them with. Personally, I saw the hurt subjected by a depraved species; I did not see an object of hatred, but rather a letter written in love. Perhaps Thompson got some things wrong. Perhaps he would've done better to have stayed out of the Middle East. I'd be happy to share my more detailed thoughts with any who might be interested, but rather than add fuel to the argument and possibly cause more pain, I'll leave those thoughts out of my review proper.

Though I only began reading graphic novels a little over a year ago, I recognize the artistry and innovation of Habibi. It is the most well constructed and intelligent graphic novel I've read. It is lush with imagery that one could spend years dissecting. It blends worlds, periods, and ideologies, and does so without the reader even noticing. Yet, there could've been more. For such a lengthy book, I didn't feel I really got to understand Dodola or Zam. Giving us more about who they were might have made it easier to view them as more than simple victims and increased the empathy readers had for them.

Habibi is an epic story that bleed in black ink all over these 670 pages. It can be viewed as a gorgeous outpouring of emotion, or an embittered tirade against justice. One cannot deny, for better or worse, Craig Thompson has ushered in a new era in graphic novels.

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review 2017-03-24 17:54
Blankets - Craig Thompson

I read this book for one of my philosophy classes. I have to write a paper on this book so my feelings on this book may change later on.

 

The story was deep, but it faltered slightly towards the end which is why I couldn't give it 5 stars.

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text 2017-03-24 17:32
Reading progress update: I've read 517 out of 592 pages.
Blankets - Craig Thompson
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