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Graphic Universe and Lerner participated in a variety of events last week. On Election Day, Tuesday, November 6th the NYC Department of Education 2012 Conference was held at A. Philip Randolph Campus High School at 135th Street in upper Manhattan—a gathering where teachers and librarians attend lectures, presentations and conferences. Educational Publishers like ours (and Rosen, Abdo, Holiday House) set up booths in the school’s gymnasium. I presented our spring 2013 list in one of the classrooms.

NYC Dept. of Education Fall Conference at A. Philip Randolph Campus High School on November 6th.

Coinciding with this event was Graphic Universe’s author-artist Zeina Abirached arrival in New York, following a conference she attended at the University of Cincinnati. Zeina, with her agent Nicolas Grivel on hand, signed and illustrated her starred review book, A Game for Swallows, which drew an impressive number of attendees to our table. She participated in a variety of other activities during the week as well.

Zeina Abirached, author-artist of A Game for Swallows signing copies of her book (top); Graphic Universe Editorial Assistant Robyn Chapman, Ms. Abirached, Graphic Universe Editorial Director Carol Burrell, and Nicolas Grivel on hand at the NYC Dept. of Ed. Conference (bottom).

On Thursday, November 8, she was invited to take part on a panel discussion in front of a large crowd at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy on Fifth Avenue. The event was moderated by Françoise Mouly, art editor of the The New Yorker. Six French Speaking comic artists were on hand to discuss their remarkable careers and field questions from the audience. In addition to Zeina, the participants included Nine Antico, Blexbolex, Anouk Ricard, Florent Ruppert, and Clément Baloup. The event was followed by a reception in the adjacent hall. It was a cool party in a grand historic building—the kind that looked as though it had been inhabited by a business tycoon from a previous century.

Zeina Abirached sitting on a panel at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in Manhattan.

The French Comic Book Party at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy on November 8th.

Then on Saturday, November 10th, Zeina was invited to sell and sign copies of her book at the jammed-packed Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival in Williamsburg. The festival’s organizer, Bill Kartalopoulos, was gracious to invite Zeina to present Swallows at his booth. Also, Graphic Universe Editorial Assistant Robyn Chapman was there to promote her new art instruction manual Drawing Comics Lab: 52 Exercises on Characters, Panels, Storytelling, Publishing & Professional Practices.

All in all it was a production week, especially considering what just happened during Hurricane Sandy a week earlier.

A large crowd at the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival on November 10th.

The Lebanese Civil War graphic novel, A Game for Swallows, by Zeina Abirached adds another standout review to its rapidly growing collection of estimable write-ups (i.e. Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal). This time The A.V. Club has taken notice. The popular newspaper, which has a prominent presence in print and online, features reviews and interviews related to all things entertainment. Although not satirical in nature like its parent company The Onion, it offers a wide range of fun and humorous pop culture content.

In the Swallows review the A.V. Club cuts to the chase by saying, “Abirached captures both the constant fear and the sense of community that defined her youth, emphasizing the latter in her warm recollections of the people who helped raise her, and getting across the latter in unusual page designs that show how the togetherness inside that one safe room was fragmented out in the streets.”

And the review doesn’t accept a knee-jerk opinion by some that A Game for Swallows is Persepolis’ (by Marjane Satrapi) twin sister. It concludes in no uncertain way that “the Persepolis comparison doesn’t work against A Game for Swallows” primarily because Ms. Abirached’s “approach to the story is quite different” than that of Ms. Satrapi’s work.

Ms. Abirached is scheduled to make a visit to New York City for book signings in early-mid November following a conference at the University of Cincinnati.

Graphic Universe is eager to share with you the upcoming release of a fascinating new graphic novel called A Game For Swallows, by Lebanese author and illustrator Zeina Abirached.

The Junior Library Guild selection powerfully depicts Ms. Abirached’s experiences growing up during Lebanon’s civil war between Muslims and Christians. Ms. Abirached, born into a Lebanese Christian family, has crafted a remarkable true story that takes place on a single day in the 1980s. Although the Lebanese Civil War lasted fifteen years, from 1975-1990, Ms. Abirached’s dramatic depiction of a day of fighting and shelling perfectly signifies the whole conflict, as if that day is lasting years. Separated between East Beirut (Christians) and West Beirut (Muslims) Lebanon’s capital is in disarray. When young Zeina’s parents are stranded across town, she and her brother must pull together with others in the neighborhood to remain safe.

Although some have drawn parallels between Ms. Abirached’s book and Iranian Marjane Satrapi’s famous work Persepolis, Ms. Abirached’s book diverges from Ms. Satrapi’s in several fundamental ways. For one, in A Game For Swallows the tone and humor are markedly different. And substantively the two stories vary widely. While Swallows concerns Ms. Abirached’s childhood in war-torn Lebanon, Ms. Satrapi’s Persepolis depicts the Iranian Islamic Revolution. Of course, they are entirely different events, concerning totally different circumstances. Lastly, A Game for Swallows is strictly written in a child’s voice, taking place on a lone day during which time Ms. Abirached witnesses events firsthand. On the other hand, the atory of Persepolis stretches across several years, from the author’s childhood to adulthood, and depicts both firsthand experiences and general events during the Iranian revolution.

Given graphic beauty and powerful story of A Game For Swallows, we have every reason to believe readers will gain a new appreciation and knowledge about this region’s historic conflict and what individuals and their communities had to do to survive.

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