cover image Escaping Wars and Waves: Encounters with Syrian Refugees

Escaping Wars and Waves: Encounters with Syrian Refugees

Olivier Kugler. Penn State Univ, $24.95 (88p) ISBN 978-0-271-08224-0

A kaleidoscopic odyssey for the era of displaced persons and disintegrating nations, this collection of dispatches from the Syrian refugee community is a fine example of humanistic journalism. Comics journalist Kugler interviews refugees, mostly from Syria, along the many stages of their diaspora, from the Domiz refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan to the Greek island of Kos; the so-called “Jungle Camp” in Calais, France; and Simmozheim, a small village in Germany where the author grew up. The recollections range from the seemingly random violence that drove refugees out of their country (“I don’t know why they shot at our house”) to the tribulations caused by their outsider status (“Fascists appeared.... They jumped out of cars and ran towards us”) and bureaucracy-induced isolation (“In our culture, we are afraid of authorities”). The pages are dense and jumbled, portraits surrounded by overlapping tangles of sketches—some brightly spot-colored and others penciled—and digressive text, frequently ordered with directional arrows. This could prove a challenge for some readers, but the book’s structure also serves as a fitting analogy for the uncertainty and disorder of the lives of its subjects. All of these stories are about displacement, and Kugler’s ability to make each feel painfully unique gives this chronicle its immense power. (Sept.)