Contemporary graphic novel genius at your library

Drawn to Berlin book cover

There is such a range of titles in the newly acquired comic collection.  The story writers, artists, pencillers and inkers that toil away on their own creations or contributions to others have produced a myriad of styles, stories and content. The latest batch includes material from diverse sources, refugee shelters in Europe through to the Lovecraftian Cthulhu mythos referencing Sherlock Holmes in Neil Gaiman’s,  A study in emerald. Enjoy!

Syndetics book coverCollecting sticks / Joe Decie.
“Observer Graphic Novel of the Month Collecting Sticks is a graphic novel about a family glamping trip. (It’s like camping, but much more expensive). Loosely based on actual events, but sometimes veering unexpectedly into fantasy, the story plays with the challenges nature presents to city folk as they forage for berries, get stuck up a tree, make perilous encounters with stinging wildlife, compete to build the best fire and discover the importance of finding good sticks. Also, it rains. It’s about the human desire to get back to nature. Or to return to childhood and hit things with sticks. Funny, moving, beautifully drawn, Collecting Sticks can stand beside Joff Winterhart’s classic graphic novel of family life, Days of the Bagnold Summer.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverEverything is flammable / Gabrielle Bell.
“In Gabrielle Bell’s much anticipated graphic memoir, she returns from New York to her childhood town in rural Northern California after her mother’s home is destroyed by a fire. Acknowledging her issues with anxiety, financial hardships, memories of a semi-feral childhood, and a tenuous relationship with her mother, Bell helps her mother put together a new home on top of the ashes. A powerful, sometimes uncomfortable, examination of a mother-daughter relationship and one’s connection to place and sense of self. Spanning a single year, Everything is Flammable unfolds with humor and brutal honesty. Bell’s sharp, digressive style is inimitable.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDrawn to Berlin : comic workshops in refugee shelters and other stories from a new Europe / Ali Fitzgerald.
“Ali Fitzgerald, an American cartoonist living and working in Berlin, began teaching comics-making to refugees in an emergency shelter. People who are fleeing their homes, now war-zones, arrive at a shelter and draw images of tragic violence and careful optimism. Now in a stunning graphic memoir, compassionate and unflinchingly intimate, Fitzgerald recounts her incredible experience, of the highs of the creatively hopeful, along with the deep depression of the disillusioned, entwining her story with complex themes of political and personal displacement.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA study in emerald / story and words, Neil Gaiman ; art and adaptation script, Rafael Albuquerque ; adaptation script, Rafael Scavone.
“This supernatural mystery set in the world of Sherlock Holmes and Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos features a brilliant detective and his partner as they try to solve a horrific murder.The complex investigation takes the Baker Street investigators from the slums of Whitechapel all the way to the Queen’s Palace as they attempt to find the answers to this bizarre murder of cosmic horror!” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverManifest destiny. Volume 6, Fortis & invisibilia / Chris Dingess, writer ; Matthew Roberts, penciller & inker ; Tony Akins, inker.
“Meriwether Lewis has slayed monsters in the pursuit of taming the wilds of America. Now, if he ever hopes to reach the Pacific coast, he must learn an important lesson: Don’t listen to the voices in your head.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGirl town / Carolyn Nowak.
Bold, infatuated, wounded, or lost, Nowak’s girls shine with life and longing. Their stories — depicted with remarkable charm and insight — capture the spirit of our time. Diana got hurt a lot, and she’s decided to deal with this fact by purchasing a life-sized robot boyfriend. Mary and La-La host a podcast about a movie no one’s ever seen. Kelly has dragged her friend Beth out of her comfort zone and into a day at the fantasy market that neither of them will forget. Carolyn Nowak’s Girl Town collects the Ignatz Award-winning stories Radishes and Diana’s Electric Tongue together with several other tales of young adulthood and the search for connection.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBizarre romance / stories by Audrey Niffenegger ; illustrated by Eddie Campbell.
“Internationally bestselling author Audrey Niffenegger and her husband, graphic artist Eddie Campbell, collaborate on this quirky, irreverent collection that celebrates and satirises love of all kinds. With thirteen different vignettes about love, loss, fairies, misbehaviour, regret, wanton wrongheadedness, cats, supernatural exterminators, spies, ghosts, more cats, more fairies, and a handful of ex-boyfriends, Bizarre Romance runs the gamut when it comes to relationships.” (Syndetics summary)

World Refugee Day

Every year countries around the world recognise the plight of refugees and celebrate the contributions of diverse cultures by marking World Refugee Day on June 20. There are currently around 20 million refugees worldwide, half of which are under the age of 18, for more on the statistics check out The UN Refugee Agency. If you would like to know about the history of refugees in New Zealand, visit Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

If you would like to help refugees in New Zealand, consider assisting NZ Red Cross with refugee resettlement, or supporting ESOL courses with English Language Partners.

What is happening in Wellington?

refugee day

Here is a selection of books and DVDs to learn more about refugee experiences:

Syndetics book coverRefuge New Zealand: a nation’s response to refugees and asylum seekers
“Unlike people who choose to migrate in search of new opportunities, refugees are compelled to leave their homeland. Typically, they are escaping war and persecution because of their ethnicity, their religion or their political beliefs. Since 1840, New Zealand has given refuge to thousands of people from Europe, South America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Refuge New Zealand examines New Zealand’s response to refugees and asylum seekers in an historical context.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe quiet war on asylum
“Why would a country that has never had a boatload of asylum arrivals in modern history suddenly legislate for mass detention? Treading across the refugee camps of Burma and Thailand, to Australia’s detention centres and back to New Zealand, Tracey Barnett looks hard at this controversial new policy. She speaks to asylum seekers, refugees, NGO workers and migrants – people on the move and on the ground. Their lives and stories reveal a reality more complex than the political rhetoric, and one that questions how fair and ethical New Zealand really is on the world stage today.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCity of thorns: nine lives in the world’s largest refugee camp
“To the charity workers, Dadaab refugee camp is a humanitarian crisis; to the Kenyan government, it is a ‘nursery for terrorists’; to the western media, it is a dangerous no-go area; but to its half a million residents, it is their last resort. Situated hundreds of miles from any other settlement, deep within the inhospitable desert of northern Kenya where only thorn bushes grow, Dadaab is a city like no other. Its buildings are made from mud, sticks or plastic, its entire economy is grey, and its citizens survive on rations and luck. Among them are Guled, a former child soldier who lives for football; Nisho, who scrapes an existence by pushing a wheelbarrow and dreaming of riches; Tawane, the indomitable youth leader; and schoolgirl Kheyro, whose future hangs upon her education.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWriting for Raksmey: A Story of Cambodia (Investigating Power Series)
Writing for Raksmey tells of the lives of six families who fled the aftermath of the Cambodian killing fields, were held in a crowded refugee camp at the border of their country, and then sent back to a nation still at war. The past is not spoken about but the struggles are not over and the sons and daughters of those who once were refugees sense mystery in their legacy and know it is important to them. Joan Healy lived and worked with these refugees for many years. The saga of this quarter century is witness to both a determination to survive and human goodness that was never quenched.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe New Odyssey: The Story of Europe’s Refugee Crisis
“Europe is facing a wave of migration unmatched since the end of World War II – and no one has reported on this crisis in more depth or breadth than the Guardian ‘s migration correspondent, Patrick Kingsley. Throughout 2015, Kingsley travelled to 17 countries along the migrant trail, meeting hundreds of refugees making epic odysseys across deserts, seas and mountains to reach the holy grail of Europe. This is Kingsley’s unparalleled account of who these voyagers are. It’s about why they keep coming, and how they do it. It’s about the smugglers who help them on their way, and the coastguards who rescue them at the other end. The volunteers that feed them, the hoteliers that house them, and the border guards trying to keep them out.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe lightless sky: an Afghan refugee boy’s journey of escape to a new life in Britain
“The boy who fled Afghanistan and endured an terrifying journey at the hands of human traffickers across Europe is now a young man intent on changing the world. His story is a deeply harrowing and incredibly inspiring tale of our times.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFrom victims to suspects: Muslim women since 9/11
“The so-called War on Terror, in its many incarnations, has always been a war with gender at its heart. Once regarded as helpless victims waiting to be rescued, Muslim women are now widely regarded by both Muslim and non-Muslim disciplinarians as a potential threat to be kept under control. How did this shift in attitudes come about? Shakira Hussein explores the lives of women negotiating the hazards of the post-9/11 terrain, from volatile Afghan refugee camps and Pakistani weddings to Australian suburbia and campaigns to ‘ban the burqa’. Her unique perspective on feminism, multiculturalism, race and religion is one that we urgently need.” (Syndetics summary)

We are hereWe are here [electronic resource]
“Told through the bright and unflinching eyes of Cat Thao, a girl born in a refugee camp, We Are Here is a memoir that begins in 1975 with her family’s gripping exodus by foot out of post-war Vietnam – a dangerous journey, unimaginable to most, on which most perished. The escape of Cat Thao’s family from persecution traverses the horrific jungles of Khmer Rouge Cambodia and into the crowded refugee camps of Thailand. From which, finally, the Nguyens were allowed to board a Qantas plane to a freedom they wanted desperately. But the stark, contrasting suburban landscapes of Western Sydney, Australia were not the unalloyed blessing they’d imagined.” (Adapted from Borrowbox description)

Mary meets MohammadMary meets Mohammad [Documentary]
Mary meets Mohammad is a film that follows the arrival of Tasmania’s first asylum seeker detention centre through the eyes of local knitting club member Mary. Mary is a staunchily Christian pensioner, who is not welcoming of the 400 male asylum seekers, who have come mostly from Afghanistan. Mary unexpectedly finds herself in regular contact with Mohammad, a 26 year old Muslim Afghan Hazara man, after her knitting club donates woolen hats to the men inside the detention centre. Mary sheds many of her prior beliefs as her relationship with Mohammad deepens and she is reminded of their common humanity” (Container).

The Good LieThe good lie [Movie]
“They were known simply as ‘The Lost Boys’. Orphaned by the brutal civil war in Sudan that began in 1983, these young victims traveled as many as a thousand miles on foot in search of safety. Fifteen years later, a humanitarian effort would bring 3,600 lost boys and girls to America” (Container).

World Refugee Day

World Refugee Day falls on June 20, a day to honour the courage, strength and resilience of more than 50 million people around the world. Aotearoa New Zealand has a long history of accepting refugees, starting with the Polish orphans during the Second World War. Imagine losing everything simply because of your race, ethnicity or beliefs.

Here is a selection of adult and children’s books we have in our collection, both fiction and non-fiction.

Syndetics book coverGive us this day : a memoir of family and exile / Helena Wiśniewska Brow.
“In June 1944, when 14-year-old Stefan Wisniewski stood by his mother’s dusty Tehran grave, he knew his world was about to change again, forever. Give Us This Day: A Memoir of Family and Exile explores the story of one of the 732 Polish child survivors of wartime Soviet deportation offered unlikely refuge in New Zealand. Seventy years later, and no closer to a longed-for Polish homecoming, Stefan’s New Zealand-born daughter revisits his past. What is the burden her father has carried all these years? And why is he unable–or unwilling–to let it go? With an aging father and the ghost of a namesake aunt as her guides, Helena Wisniewska Brow searches for meaning in the family lives shaped by exile: her father’s, her mother’s, and her own.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverStefania’s dancing slippers / Jennifer Beck ; [illustrated by] Lindy Fisher.
“As a five-year-old in Poland, Stefania loved to dance, but war came and her father went away to fight. Then she and her mother were sent to work camps in Siberia. The two struggled through until they were released and allowed to travel south again. But now her mother is sick and Stefania must leave her. At the parting Stefania drops one of her precious dancing slippers. She holds on to her one remaining slipper as a link to home and her parents as she is finally sent to the other side of the world – NZ. At the age of twelve, Stefania finally hears news of her parents and there is a reunion but it’s not a totally happy ending. Her mother had returned to Poland and now that country is closed.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWalking with a fragile heart : short stories and poems by young refugees in New Zealand / edited by Pauline Frances.
“WALKING WITH A FRAGILE HEART is the third book published by Refugee Trauma Recovery. It has seven young people, all former refugees originating from Afghanistan, Burma (Karen people), Ethiopia and Rwanda, sharing their stories not just about their journey to Aotearoa New Zealand, but also their experiences settling in NZ. A special and extra feature of the book is the addition of poems composed by the same writers. Dame Fiona Kidman has written the preface which states as follows: “All the stories and poems moved me deeply. I am glad that this written record now exists, and commend all who have contributed to it.”” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe rose hotel : a memoir of secrets, loss, and love from Iran to America / Rahimeh Andalibian.
“Andalibian struggles to make sense of two brutal crimes: a rape, solved by her father, and a murder, of which her beloved oldest brother stands accused. She takes us first into her family’s tranquil, jasmine-scented days of prosperity in their luxury hotel in Mashhad, Iran. Their life is ruptured by the 1979 revolution as they flee: first to the safety of a mansion in Tehran, next to a squalid one-room flat in London, and finally to California, where they suffer a different kind of revolution. Struggling to adjust to a new host culture, they soon discover that although they escaped Iran, they are not free from their own lies and hidden truths. As the family comes to grips with their new home, the strength of their bonds are tested by love, loyalty, compassion, hate, pain, loss–and the will to survive. Heartbreaking and intimately told, this is a universal story of healing, rebirth after tragedy, and hard-won redemption” (Provided by publisher)

Syndetics book coverTeacup / Rebecca Young, Matt Ottley.
“Once there was a boy who had to leave home… and find another. In his bag he carried a book, a bottle and a blanket. In his teacup he held some earth from where he used to play. This is one boy’s story of leaving his homeland, surviving a long journey by sea… and finding a safe, new place to call home..” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA man of good hope / Jonny Steinberg.
“In January 1991, when civil war came to Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, two-thirds of the city’s population fled. Among them was eight-year-old Asad Abdullahi. His mother murdered by a militia, his father somewhere in hiding, he was swept alone into the great wartime migration that scattered the Somali people throughout sub-Saharan Africa and the world. This … book tells Asad’s story, [from a childhood living in a bewildering number of places to an adulthood of financial and romantic success]”–Dust jacket flap.

Syndetics book coverA king in hiding : how a child refugee became a world chess champion / Fahim with Sophie Le Callennec and Xavier Parmentier ; translated from the French by Barbara Mellor.

Syndetics book coverHamid’s story … : a real-life account of his journey from Eritrea / created by Andy Glynne ; illustrated & designed by Tom Senior.
“This is the story of Hamid who was forced to flee with his mother from war-torn Eritrea. It is the story of how they arrived in the UK as refugees with no understanding of the language and culture, and how they rebuilt their lives. When Hamid starts school, it is difficult at first, but then he makes some friends and things start to get better. But the horrors of the war in Eritrea are never far from their thoughts as the family learn of the death of Hamid’s father.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWhat is the what : the autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng : a novel / Dave Eggers.
“In a heartrending and astonishing novel, Eggers illuminates the history of the civil war in Sudan through the eyes of Valentino Achak Deng, a refugee now living in the United States. We follow his life as he’s driven from his home as a boy and walks, with thousands of orphans, to Ethiopia, where he finds safety — for a time. Ultimately, Valentino finds safety in Kenya and, just after the millennium, is finally resettled in the United States, from where this novel is narrated. In this book, written with expansive humanity and surprising humor, we come to understand the nature of the conflicts in Sudan, the refugee experience in America, the dreams of the Dinka people, and the challenge one indomitable man faces in a world collapsing around him.” (Syndetics summary)

How can you help empower people from refugee backgrounds to achieve their goals and contribute to their new home in Aotearoa, New Zealand?
If you would like to know how you can help a family who has lost everything to start again, visit the Red Cross website to find out more.

Free author talk with Alina Suchanski – 19 March

Alina-Suchanski.webAlina Suchanski’s recently published book Alone – an Inspiring Story of Survival and Determination tells the story of a young Polish orphan who came to Pahiatua in 1944. Based on the life of her stepfather Tony Laparowski, it recounts his early childhood in Poland, his family’s deportation to the Soviet Union at the start of World War II where both his parents had perished, and his journey as an orphan from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Persia to New Zealand. Although Alina’s stepfather read the completed manuscript, sadly he hasn’t seen his story in print. He passed away in May 2012 before Alone was published.

Ms Suchanski who spoke no English when she came to New Zealand as a refugee herself in 1982, said that writing this book took her eight years and was the biggest challenge of her life. Based on her stepfather’s memoirs hand written in Polish, she spent several years researching the book which included interviewing remaining family members in Poland and employing an historian to gather further information. Alone is her second book, publishing Polish Kiwis – Pictures from an Exhibition in 2006.

The talk will also include the screening of an excerpt from the documentary Poles Apart. Produced by Ms Suchanski in 2004 it presents the story of the Pahiatua Children, interviews with the representatives of this group and their personal memories.

The opportunity to hear Alina talk about her book Alone will appeal to anyone with an interest in Polish history and the Pahiatua orphans, the journey of refugees to New Zealand, or simply about the human capacity to overcome adversity.

Tuesday 19 March, 5.30pm
Central Library, 65 Victoria Street
FREE – no need to book, just come along

Proudly supported by the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Wellington