Graphic novels have the ability to depict any number of different worlds, but the most important might just be the one that continues to spin outside the doors of your local library.
Comics journalist Sarah Glidden accompanied two freelance journalists to Turkey, Iraq and Syria to cover the effects of the Iraq War on refugees.
The resulting graphic novel, “Rolling Blackouts,” renders Glidden’s account of the experience — including interviews with American Marines, United Nations administrators and a taxi driver — in pencil lines and watercolors.
“It’s still a novelty in the world of journalism,” Glidden said.
At 4 p.m. Thursday at Paterno Library, “Rolling Blackouts” will be awarded the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize by The Pennsylvania Center for the Book.
The award recognizes the best graphic novel, fiction or nonfiction, as determined by a small panel of judges who read close to 100 graphic novels over a four-month period.
“It’s a huge honor because there were a lot of great books that came out last year,” Glidden said.
Ellysa Stern Cahoy, assistant director of the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, said Glidden has a talent for telling personal stories.
In “Rolling Blackouts” she uses that ability to examine the work that reporters are doing throughout the world.
“It brings together this really compelling idea of what is journalism,” Stern Cahoy said.
Glidden’s experiences in the Middle East helped her to get a better handle on some of the obstacles that journalists face when trying to tell a story — especially when it comes issues that could be considered downbeat or unexciting.
The more visual approach of comics journalism is a way to stand out from the sea of headlines vying for eyeballs online and in print.
“Comics can kind of convince people to read something that they might not otherwise,” Glidden said.
Her tools in the field include a sketchbook, an audio recorder and a camera for reference photos.
It took Glidden an entire year just to transcribe all of her recordings from the Middle East, so that the quotes and visuals come together to form an authentic portrayal.
“It’s really important to me that these places look real,” Glidden said.
Thursday’s award ceremony, which will include a talk by Glidden, is open to the public. For more information, visit pabook.libraries.psu.edu/awards-contests/lynd-ward-graphic-novel-prize.