Poppies of Iraq in stores : Nominated for the Kirkus Prize
It's not often that a book lands in stores with starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Kirkus, pre-publication review attention from mainstream outlets like the Boston Globe, Vulture, and Under the Radar, and perhaps most uniquely, already nominated for a major book prize with the Kirkus Prize in Young Readers Literature, but that is what we have with Brigitte Findakly and Lewis Trondheim's Poppies of Iraq. Once you have read it, it's not surprising.
It's easy to understand why the book has made such an impact. It's the heartbreaking story of Brigitte's childhood in Mosul and her witnessing the slow dissolution of her country's society. It's the story of her feminist awakening in Paris juxtaposed with her female family members back home losing their freedoms. It's the story of Brigitte as an adult watching the war unfold in Iraq and feeling increasingly isolated from the place that she once called home. It's a story tenderly drawn by her husband, the celebrated cartoonist Lewis Trondheim.
This book first came to my attention by cartoonist Pascal Girard who told me he had never quite read a graphic memoir like it. The book's translator Helge Dascher said she had never translated a voice like Brigitte's before. Indeed, the tone of the book is neither naive nor didactic in taking sides; neither maudlin nor cold in recounting memories; neither simple nor byzantine in citing the history of the region. Brigitte's storytelling and Lewis' cartooning are perfectly balance the nuance of a time and place now captured only in memory.
Altogether, Poppies of Iraq distills the humanity and history of Iraq when its war has erased both; it's a stunning, important, and intimate portrait of Mosul that sadly no longer exists.