...Less poignant but impressive in its own naïve way is “Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches From Turkey, Syria, and Iraq,” by Sarah Glidden.
Glidden is a West Coast cartoonist who teams up with a gang of independent reporters to traverse the war-torn Middle East. Ethics aside — is this war tourism? — there is something heady about Glidden’s learning curve.
“It’s so weird for me to come to places where you just can’t talk about certain things,” one of her friends muses. “Because people just spout their mouths off left and right in America about any damned thing they want to.”
Her two-month voyage is a Middle East 101, a kind of “Let’s Go: Middle East for Millennials.” It’s a child’s vision, a comic book about statistics and data of refugees in Turkey; the Kurdish question; the lingering damage of the Iraq invasion told through the eyes of her fellow traveler, a former Marine called Dan who has obvious but vital observations like: “What would be best for our foreign policy would be if we moved away from all the military stuff and started programs that would help these people.”
It’s hard not to utter to oneself, “Duh,” as Glidden gradually takes on the multilayered complexities of the Middle East. But there is something fresh in her narrative. In the midst of her cultural wanderings — the endless cups of heavily sugared tea and the bewilderment she constantly feels — Glidden pieces together something that newspaper reporters often miss while trying so hard to analyze. By talking to people and living their lives, she unearths very real people and their real stories.