The Arab of the Future 3: The Circumcision Years: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1985-1987

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The Arab of the Future series, documenting the life of its author, Riad Sattouf, is immensely popular in Europe and particularly in France, where Sattouf lived periodically growing up. This is the third installment in the series, covering two years of his young life, from age seven to nine, some of which is spent in Syria, some in France. The fact that this is the third volume and that it only covers ages seven to nine should give you some indication of both the granular level of storytelling and the number of books Sattouf has in mind for the series.

Sattouf is unflinching in his depiction of himself and his family, an honesty at once refreshing and uncomfortable. He doesn’t shy away from depicting the cruelty of children, himself included. Nor does he attempt to present the adults around him with undue deference–their motives and thoughts remain opaque, as they would have been to Sattouf at that age, but Sattouf brings a mature adult understanding to his representation of their flaws and frequent short-sightedness. In other words, there are no heroes here, nor does Sattouf try to shoe-horn any in for the reader’s comfort. Which is part of what gives this book such visceral realism–ironic in a book with a spare, cartoon-y style–and genuine emotion. The way Sattouf presents his childhood–which is an incredibly fascinating one, by the way–encourages the reader to look back at their own, but perhaps with less of the erroneous rosy tint we often give it.

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Star Count 5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 160 pages
Publisher Metropolitan Books
Publish Date 2018-08-07
ISBN 9781627793537 Buy this Book
Issue April 2019
Category Sequential Art


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