In the 1940s a third of Baghdad’s population was Jewish. Within a decade nearly all 150,000 had been expelled, killed or had escaped. This graphic memoir of a lost homeland is a wordless narrative by an author homesick for a home she has never visited. Transported by the power of music to her ancestral home in the old Jewish quarter of Baghdad, the author encounters its ghost-like inhabitants who are revealed as long-gone family members.
As she explores the city, journeying through their memories and her imagination, she at first sees successful integration, and cultural and social cohesion. Then the mood turns darker with the fading of this ancient community’s fortunes.
It’s been a while since I last picked up a graphic novel and far longer since I read a graphic memoir. I love memoirs in this format; done well, they are so beautiful and emotive, letting you delve into the mind and experiences of the author.
Isaacs’ memoir is unusual in that it is an exploration of her heritage and the experiences of her ancestors rather than her own. In the book, she falls asleep and journeys back to the old Jewish Quarter in Baghdad, from a time where Jewish, Christians and Muslim people lived together peacefully, to the death and destruction caused by the Nazi regime, as well as the interference of the British due to our obsession with colonialism.
The graphics in this book are beautiful; muted and ghostly with a huge amount of depth. It clearly has been drawn and written with a great deal of passion and love. The wolf-like presence is carefully crafted into each panel.
It is very hard for me to do the graphics justice so I’ve embedded the trailer video below – just look at those stars.
Although it is possible to read a graphic novel quickly, especially one such as this where it is a wordless narrative, I did take the time to read The Wolf of Baghdad over a number of days so I could absorb the detail of the images.
This book was an education for me, my knowledge in this area was ignorant at best and I especially appreciated the explanations and timelines provided in the back of the book to provide the reader with a bigger picture of Baghdad’s Jewish history.
A powerful, goosebump-inducing memoir. Highly recommended.
Many thanks to Myriad for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
You can support your local bookshop by buying The Wolf of Baghdad through them directly, or via Hive.
What do you think of The Wolf of Baghdad? Will you be reading it? Let me know in the comments below.
Wishing you a wonderfully bookish week,