Book Review: Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq

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Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches From Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, Sarah Glidden

306 pages, Drawn & Quarterly, www.drawnandquarterly.com, $29.95

What is journalism?

This is the big question that sent Sarah Glidden to the Middle East with a pair of old friends (also accomplished journalists) who are in search of a story about the Iraq war and the refugees left behind in the dust. The crew also brings with them an Iraq war veteran, wanting to also tell and document the story of a soldier returning to meet some people affected by the war. This graphic novel is told from Glidden’s perspective as she follows her friends to interviews with civilians, refugees, and experts on the Iraq War and America’s massive role in the country’s history.

There are moments in the book where you see the warmth of the cast, both journalists and civilians, connecting on a human level. The shared understanding of the importance of family and education plays a big role in most conversations that are had. At other times, there is frustration that comes out when the journalist feels they are being lied to, or are not able to get the subject to open up. Glidden, an outsider, observes these moments and finds her question, “What is journalism?” more complex to navigate than she anticipated.

If I have one grievance with this book, it would be how American the perspective on this war is. Yes, there are many interviews with the civilians of these war torn countries, but the story really focuses on the journalist’s own guilt for being part of a country that would allow this war, and asking if they can find any way to make sense of the war, hoping that finding some sort of justification, possibly ending their personal guilt.

As for the illustrations, Glidden’s warm monochromatic colour scheme helps the reader focus on the heavy topics of the book. The soft lines allow you to really dive deep into the conversations without losing the humanity that is expressed in the faces. For those interested in our global village and our part in it, even its most difficult places, I highly recommend this book. (Shelby Monita)

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