Review: Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Diary Edited by Ari Folman, Illustrated by David Polonsky

The only graphic novelization of Anne Frank’s diary that has been authorized by the Anne Frank Foundation and that uses text from the diary–it will introduce a new generation of young readers to this classic of Holocaust literature.Anne Frank's Diary- The Graphic Diary 9-- bookspoilsThis one isn’t an easy one to quickly wrap my mind (or words) around. There’s so much to be said and done that it all sits so heavy on my heart. I’ll begin by mentioning that I received the opportunity to read the original Hebrew version of this book, courtesy of a lovely librarian at my local library.

And I’ll go on to admit that I struggled quite a lot with the start of this graphic diary. In particular, I had trouble with Anne Frank’s hurtful depiction of the eight people surrounding her, from those forced into hiding with her, as well as the disrespect targeted at her own family members. I was particularly struck when I read the page declaring, quite bluntly so, that she considered the relationship with her mother so unstable that she wouldn’t care if her mother died. It was one of the cruelest sayings, especially under their utterly dire circumstance. And then it rolled on to her nonstop ridicule of Mrs. Van Daan… And I couldn’t stand by idly reading about all the above, knowing that these are real people that died the most horrendous of deaths and cannot defend their honor; all that remains of them are these jarring depictions of their behavior under the most inhumane circumstances, and it was painful to read.

So I was relieved when Anne Frank acknowledged in later journey entries that her previous uncompromising points of view on her family was less than unfair. Empathy is key in familial discourse.

It’s true, she didn’t understand me, but I didn’t understand her either.

With that admission in mind, the book did a turning point for me, where I could finally feel myself growing more attached to Anne as a person, from finding a loyal companion in the blank pages of her notebook to seeing herself as an aspiring writer to capturing her rightful hate towards Nazi Germans (that depicts my own), assessing her self-awareness, which had me so enraptured while reading that it deserves to be shared:

In everything I do, I can watch myself as if I were a stranger. I can stand across from the everyday Anne and, without being biased or making excuses, watch what she’s doing, both the good and the bad. This self-awareness never leaves me, and every time I open my mouth, I think, ‘You should have said that differently’ or ‘That’s fine the way it is.’ I condemn myself in so many ways that I’m beginning to realize the truth of my Father’s adage: ‘Every child has to raise itself.’ Parents can only advise their children or point them in the right direction. Ultimately, people shape their own characters.

As well as her line on trying to do and be better: I know exactly how I’d like to be, how I am . . . on the inside. But unfortunately I’m only like that with myself.

There’s so much more to be said, but I’ll just share the pages that got it all right:Anne Frank's Diary- The Graphic Diary 1-- bookspoilsAnne Frank's Diary- The Graphic Diary 3-- bookspoils

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5/5 stars

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Review: Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith by Gina B. Nahai

I was keen on finding a read with tints of magical realism in it, when I came across this wonder of a book centered on just that, with the added bonus of featuring the Jewish ghetto of Tehran.

Similar to one of my favorite multigenerational books, The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem, this reads starts off on a prominent related cast of female characters with a hint of otherworldliness in their everyday life. Spinning tales of signs and superstitions, falling victim to the inevitability of Destiny, featuring dreams and memories of ghosts, and stories of wayward ancestors, it seemed like I’d hit jackpot with picking up Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith.

All they wanted was to stay in one place long enough to belong. 

And for the first part of the book, I had nothing but praise in my words. I especially appreciated the grand, layered storytelling that reveals itself with time. You’re never sure of a single thing until you’ve followed the tale and its characters to the end. Which is where my appreciation for the peculiar side characters comes in. Their world, full of superstition, had me in its spinning webs. Most notably, Alexandra the Cat, whose every move was clouded with an air of mystery, was the first to catch my attention. Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith 1-- bookspoils

This above passage was a prime example of having a storyline that doesn’t disappear with the next chapter. And having it all click together was beyond satisfying to experience.

Which is what saddened me most about the novel, knowing that the minute our main character, Roxanna, would move away from her family’s home, and later her place at Alexandra’s, the book would deteriorate in time.

Because unlike the novel I mention at the start of my review, the Jewish theme, which I thought would be a prevalent one and what had me so keen on reading this book, was practically non-existent the more I read on; it disappeared with the generations. And I don’t feel like I learned anything solid about the cultural value within the Jewish ghetto of Tehran. I feel like we barely received any scenes of camaraderie, or even simple dialogue exchanged between the Iranian-Jewish characters to receive some semblance of home and community.

It also didn’t help that at the same time that I put all these points together, Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith was starting to lose its steam for me. Knowing this book wasn’t going to have a saving grace in the upcoming pages for me, I decided it best to quit ahead, as I could feel myself growing agitated and furious with the upcoming storyline.

It’s such a shame as well because this started out as an interesting tale of intersecting family lines and dealing with the burden of Destiny, yet ended on such a miserable case of virtually abandoning all the character building we had for Roxanna’s family, and instead putting the focus on her new marital home where she feels like an outsider, and as a result, so did I as the reader. All this leads in the end to her daughter, Lili, being stuck in the hands of strangers, which is where the utter disregard for their religion is shown most notably in the form of sending her off to a Catholic school… While her mother is off doing who knows what to reach her supposed ‘freedom’ that she didn’t even get to receive.Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith 2-- bookspoilsAt a certain point, the book just hit a point where the story wasn’t really moving forward or contributing any valid information that propelled the characters along. Like, there’s literally a whole page dedicated to expanding on a random bus driver who has no point in the overarching theme… And I had to put a stop to it by declaring enough is enough.

Bottom line: I’d only recommend reading this book for its introducing fifty-something pages that encompass and expand on so much.

2.5/5 stars

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Review: Farm 54 by Galit Seliktar, Gilad Seliktar

The promise of having a collection of Jewish-Israeli short stories in graphic novel format was exactly what I was seeking.

Farm 54 is a collection of three semi-autobiographical stories addressing three important periods in the life of the protagonist, Noga, born at the start of the 1970’s and growing up in Israel’s rural periphery. Substitute Lifeguard (1981) finds her towards the end of her childhood as she experiences a family trauma, a blessing and a birthday. Spanish Perfume (1983) brings her to teenage in the wake of the First Lebanon War whilst Houses (1989) portrays her passage to adulthood and hence military service in the occupied territories.

Though for the most of my reading experience I wasn’t particularly engaged in the storyline, I found the last tale, centering around Noga entering her IDF service, to be such an eye-opener. There’s a lot I’ve yet to discover in the details of one’s IDF service, so Houses, in its brief page-time, delivered a lot of knowledge for me.

The graphic novel as a whole relies a lot on telling stories without words in the way of silent/wordless graphic novels; it made for plenty of poignant, quiet, and pondering moments to take in. But the true star of this show has got to be the art and its stroke of minimalism.Farm 54 1-- bookspoilsFarm 54 2-- bookspoilsFarm 54 3-- bookspoils

In the end, I was left with a sense of stillness in my mind that is hard to come by in books nowadays. I would love to pick up Tsav 8 by Gilad Seliktar next.

4/5 stars

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