cover image The Arab of the Future 3: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1985–1987

The Arab of the Future 3: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1985–1987

Riad Sattouf. Metropolitan, $27 (160p) ISBN 978-1-62779-353-7

In the third volume of his magnificent five-part memoir, French-Syrian cartoonist Sattouf—aged seven in the book—begins to realize the poverty, patriarchy, and religious stratification that permeates life in Syria. He reluctantly undergoes a circumcision to appease his devout grandmother, becomes cognizant of his mother’s lowly stature in Syrian society, and sees his father’s own limitations and weaknesses. The cultural rift between Sattouf’s French-born mother and his Syrian-born father metastasizes throughout this installment. Sattouf’s mother is vocal about her unhappiness living in her husband’s childhood village: “We’ve got quite a few problems,” she tells her mother over the phone. “Life is hard here.” Sattouf’s father—once a dynamic, progressive student living in France—has lost his hopeful outlook as he is increasingly drawn to his extended family’s religiosity. While the young Sattouf retains his childish whimsy, the tension between the adults in his life looms like a shadow. As the series builds in maturity and depth, Sattouf depicts in unsettling detail how political and religious indoctrination can infect even the most well-meaning idealists. This is essential reading both for graphic novel fans and to provide human context to global political conflicts. (Aug.)