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Jerusalem: A Family Portrait
     

Jerusalem: A Family Portrait

by Boaz Yakin, Nick Bertozzi (Illustrator)
 

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A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Jerusalem is a sweeping, epic graphic novel that follows a single family—three generations and fifteen very different people—as they are swept up in chaos, war, and nation-making from 1940-1948. Faith, family, and politics are the heady mix that fuel this ambitious, cinematic graphic novel.

With Jerusalem,

Overview

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Jerusalem is a sweeping, epic graphic novel that follows a single family—three generations and fifteen very different people—as they are swept up in chaos, war, and nation-making from 1940-1948. Faith, family, and politics are the heady mix that fuel this ambitious, cinematic graphic novel.

With Jerusalem, author-filmmaker Boaz Yakin turns his finely-honed storytelling skills to a topic near to his heart: Yakin's family lived in Palestine during this period and was caught up in the turmoil of war just as his characters are. This is a personal work, but it is not a book with a political ax to grind. Rather, this comic seeks to tell the stories of a huge cast of memorable characters as they wrestle with a time when nothing was clear and no path was smooth.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This grim and relentless comic by filmmaker Yakin was inspired by tales his Israeli father told him. It follows the families of two estranged Israeli brothers—focusing primarily on the sons of those brothers—as the many wars involving Jerusalem rage around them. They suffer life, death, and everything in between, all while searching for their own identities within a passionate love for the place they call home. The book draws lovely if depressing parallels between these families and the Arabs and Jews, as they fight for control of Jerusalem. While the troubles of the Middle East are familiar , it’s impossible not to get drawn in to the plight of these characters. The youngest sons, first cousins Motti and Jonathan, are perhaps the sole bright spots and also the most tragic aspect of this work. Best friends regardless of their fathers’ estrangement, they are eventually pulled apart as they grow up, and as Jerusalem continues to pull itself apart. The way Motti and Jonathan’s story ends is somehow both shocking and inevitable. Bertozzi’s art, in grimly appropriate shades of black, white, and grey, sets a fitting tone for a story filled with unflinchingly honest violence. (Apr.)
From the Publisher

“Those who like the graphic novel format and have an interest in people holding true to their beliefs or have experienced living in a situation filled with mayhem and disorder, may find this book helpful.” —VOYA

“This is most powerful for investing a massive and complex issue with real human emotion.” —Booklist, starred review

“A hefty tableau of beautifully gnashed teeth.” —Kirkus Reviews

VOYA - Kelly Czarnecki
This graphic novel takes place in Jerusalem between 1940-1948, during the formation of an Israeli state, commonly referred to at the time as Palestine. A native Arab population and a growing Jewish one presented challenges to the British. A Family Portrait takes a look at three generations of the Halaby family trying to survive in this tumultuous and uncertain time. The story opens with Motti, a nine year old boy who is involved in typical antics of fighting with his peers with fists and rocks, stealing food at the market, and even breaking his neighbors' windows, while his brother Avraham is off to fight in the war. Their other brother Ezra, joined a militant group where he conducts bombings against the British and acts as a postman by day. The family can no longer afford their rent and more people continue to move in, including Sylvia, who claims she is married to David, another brother of Motti's who is in Rome. No family member is untouched by tragedy. The black-and-white drawings capture the tension and destruction of the time. Teens with an interest in the topic will likely find this a helpful resource in gathering information about the different factions that existed and what life was like for a Jewish family in Jerusalem. Those who like the graphic novel format and have an interest in people holding true to their beliefs or have experienced living in a situation filled with mayhem and disorder, may find this book helpful. Reviewer: Kelly Czarnecki
Children's Literature - Leona Illig
Subtitled “A Family Portrait,” this book is the story of a large Jewish family living in Jerusalem from 1940 to 1948, in the midst of the turmoil surrounding the creation of the modern Israeli state. There is a large cast of characters in this graphic novel—twenty, as outlined in a chart at the front of the book—but the main story revolves around a handful of people. Chief among them is Motti, a young boy who is caught up in the hatred and violence, and who finds temporary escape by joining a Shakespearean theatrical company performing in the city. There is a great deal of brutality and bloodshed, as the main characters find themselves in physical and moral conflict with the British, the Arabs, and each other. There is no particular political point of view in the novel, other than the conviction that war is not the way to solve problems. Readers who are unfamiliar with the history of the creation of the Israeli state may have a difficult time sorting out all the plot lines. They may also have trouble telling the characters apart, since the author does not use standard conventions to distinguish between the dialog spoken by Jews and that spoken by Arabs. The story itself is gripping, and the characters interesting, but the graphic novel format here book does not adequately deal with the large, sweeping, complex subject. Deep character development in the graphic novel is tricky to pull off, and when you have a huge cast of characters, it is almost impossible. Using this format as a vehicle to showcase big historical events has become somewhat of a trend in recent years. In this case, however, it undermines what is arguably a great story. Illustrations are in black-and-white. Reviewer: Leona Illig; Ages 12 up.
Kirkus Reviews
This ambitious graphic novel traces the chaotic, bloody early history of the modern Jewish state in Palestine, focusing on a fractious family living in the hotly contested city of Jerusalem. In April of 1945, the Halabys live in the motley Machane Yehuda neighborhood of British Jerusalem. After inheriting property from his late father, kind, soft-spoken patriarch Izak now lives in a modest apartment with no-nonsense Jewish-Egyptian wife Emily and their four sons and lone daughter (and, eventually, a down-on-their luck family Izak takes pity on, much to Emily's chagrin). Idealistic, artistic Avraham joins the Communist Party, under the leadership of noble Elias Habash, urging class solidarity between Jew and Arab alike. With Avraham returned from serving overseas with the Jewish brigade of the British army, dutiful David now enlists, devastating young Motti. Defiant Ezra delivers telegrams--and anti-British propaganda, journeying deeper into violent insurgency. Fearless, intelligent scamp Motti is best friends and classmates with cousin Jonathan, whose wealthy father, Yakov, deeply resents Motti's father--his own brother. Bashful Devorah struggles with self-esteem as the world around her falls apart, though Jonathan insists she's the most beautiful girl in the neighborhood. Through perils large and small--military occupation, suppression of Jewish identity, labor protests, internecine disputes, theater productions, open warfare--the family and city spiral into darkness, drenched in blood, as kindness and honor fail to overcome perceived slights. This dense work of nearly 400 pages offers almost no narration, save the opening six pages (map, condensed textual histories, illustrated family tree) that serve as a legend to be flipped back to time and again as the complex tale whirls mercilessly toward an intercut montage worthy of Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather. Filmmaker and author Yakin (Marathon, 2012, etc.) doesn't offer an easy read--the story is unapologetically larger than its pages--or any easy answers, which is bittersweetly appropriate given the subject matter. Bertozzi's (Lewis & Clark, 2011, etc.) clean lines and deceptively cartoonish art deftly capture everything from subtle emotion to human dismemberment. A hefty tableau of beautifully gnashed teeth.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781596435759
Publisher:
First Second
Publication date:
04/16/2013
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
1,287,630
Product dimensions:
6.38(w) x 8.56(h) x 1.38(d)
Lexile:
GN640L (what's this?)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Boaz Yakin is a screenwriter and film director based in New York City. Yakin studied filmmaking at New York City College and New York University. As a producer he has been involved in bringing projects as diverse as Hostel and the award-winning Bombay Beach to the screen. His first graphic novel published by First Second, was Marathon with Joe Infurnari.
Nick Bertozzi lives in Queens, NY, with his wife and daughters and is the author and artist of many other cartoon stories, among them The Salon, Houdini: The Handcuff King, and First Second's Lewis & Clark and Stuffed! He is a teacher at the School of Visual Arts.

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