The Monthly reviews Rolling Blackouts

“Must-Reads on the Middle East” / The Monthly / Reese Erlich / March 9, 2017

In Rolling Blackouts, author and artist Sarah Glidden applies graphic novel skills to explanatory journalism. The book contains hundreds of cartoon frames depicting her visits to Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. The content of the graphics are written like a first-person magazine article, interweaving interviews with salient historical facts about the region.

Glidden uses a seemingly simple structure. She follows two freelance reporters from Seattle as they interview officials and ordinary people. Glidden records the interviews to create the cartoon captions. The result is a compelling and readable account of the very complicated politics of those countries.

For example, Glidden tells the story of an Iraqi Kurd accused of ties to terrorists who was deported from the United States while his wife and children stayed in Seattle. Glidden presents the case against him based on court documents. Then we meet the man himself to get his side of the story. It's right out of the radio show This American Life but in muted color drawings.

The graphic format of the book and Glidden's compelling storytelling make this book particularly appropriate for people unfamiliar with the region's politics and culture.

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