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A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return
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A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  2,889 ratings  ·  411 reviews
When Zeina was born, the civil war in Lebanon had been going on for six years, so it's just a normal part of life for her and her parents and little brother. The city of Beirut is cut in two, separated by bricks and sandbags and threatened by snipers and shelling. East Beirut is for Christians, and West Beirut is for Muslims. When Zeina's parents don't return one afternoon ...more
Hardcover, 188 pages
Published August 1st 2012 by Graphic Universe (Tm) (first published 2007)
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3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,889 ratings  ·  411 reviews

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Mar 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
"A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return" didn't do much for me. It tells the story of two children spending the night in their foyer while their parents are stuck just blocks away behind the east/west barricade. Neighbors stop by, some worrying ensues, we get a backstory or two, then the graphic novel ends.

Let's talk about the elephant in the room: the artistic similarities here between this graphic novel and Marjane Satrapi's "Persepolis" graphic novels. Zeina Abirached owes a lot to
Oct 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics, memoir
Much like I Remember Beirut, this is a graphic novel memoir of Abirached's childhood during the civil war in Lebanon. But it approaches the idea from a different perspective. I Remember Beirut was a scattered, but effective, glimpse at a difficult life through details only. A Game for Swallows is a single day in depth, which allows for more perspective, more storytelling, and more character growth. Both books are equally absorbing, and together give a much fuller idea of the life that Abirached ...more
Shellie Foltz
Jan 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A Game for Swallows was my first foray into a graphic texts. The subject matter seemed incongruous with the format, yet now that I’ve experienced it, I can’t imagine a better way of approaching it. The artwork is sufficiently innocent, providing a stark contrast (just as stark as the black and white pages) to the wartime setting. The author doesn’t shy away from what is going on outside the apartment and never lets you forget what is happening, but just as the characters (and I do mean character ...more
First Second Books
So beautiful and sad.
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
The illustrations in this graphic novel are all in black and white, intense, no shades of gray, emphasizing the gravity of the situation a handful of people in an apartment building in Beirut, Lebanon, find themselves in as they wait for the snipers to stop shooting. Zeina and her little brother wait for their parents to return from a trip across town to visit their grandmother. The entire story takes place in the space of a day and night.

The author bases this on her own experiences as a child
Feb 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: graphic-books
Based on Lebanese (1975-90) civil war, this nonfiction comic offers a view in the mutual support system that people build up among themselves during war. The work is not as sharp as Marjane's Persepolis or Joe Sacco's Palestine. But I love the beautiful illustrations in rich black and white.
Nov 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
I think it's hard to find stories about war that are appropriate for kids. This graphic novel does a good job at showing exactly what living in a war torn country can be like.
Barbara McEwen
It was ok. The book is a memoir about being a kid during the Lebanese civil war but, not a lot actually happens. I guess I have read quite a few graphic memoirs now and this one doesn't have a lot of substance or feeling? The illustrations are quite similar to Persepolis.
In the same way that Persepolis touched many hearts and informed many minds about parts of the Middle East, this stunning graphic novel describes the lives of ordinary men, women, and children in war-torn Beirut, Lebanon, in 1984. Drawing from her own experience as a child, the author/illustrator describes an event that typifies how her parents and neighbors endured those challenging times when even a visit to someone a couple of streets away could result in death from a sniper. When her parents ...more
A Game for Swallows is a graphic memoir of life in Lebanon during their civil war in the '80's. Zeina and her family live in an apartment building that is situated right next to the dividing line. One night, Zeina's parents leave home to check on family members across town, risking their lives to pass through various security checkpoints and sniper territory. While the parents are out, the neighbors drop in to check on Zeina and her little brother. As time passes, more and more of the apartment' ...more
Michelle Pegram
This graphic novel is the story of two young children who live with their parents in an apartment in Lebanon in 1984 during the civil war which has been going on for 9 years. They live in the foyer of their apartment because it is the place that is the safest should a bomb hit their building, and each night, as the bombings begin, their neighbors gather in their apartment for safety. The story starts on a night when their parents have not made it home from their Grandmother's house that is mere ...more
Nicola Mansfield
Sep 03, 2015 rated it liked it
I read the follow-up to this, "I Remember Beirut", first and enjoyed that much better. This is a single episode of a family and group of friends experiencing a bombing during the Lebanese Civil War. The story isn't political or religious. We just sit in a room with the people as they wait out the bombing and fear for two children's parents who were visiting down the street before the bombs started. An autobiographical story but I didn't find any connection with anyone and mostly found the tale u ...more
May 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The story takes place during a few hours one evening when the bombing intensifies and the kids are waiting for their parents to return from their grandma's house. The houses are separated by strategically placed containers and barricades to deflect a sharp shooter's view as people need to travel from one side to the other of the artificial divide. As the children wait in the small hallway of their first-floor apartment, neighbors drop in on them, not only because the children are alone, but also ...more
I had expected more of this one. It did show various things from the lives of the family and friends that were present at the time the parents weren't around, and we do find out quite a bit about the situation going on in the region, yet in the end it is still so little, it just skimming the surface. The book takes place during the time that the parents weren't around (visiting grandma) til the moment the parents come back. I knew the book would be partially about that event, however I hadn't ex ...more
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
One sitting was all it took!

I enjoyed both the story and the artwork. Reminded me a bit of Persepolis but this just captures the story of one night of a close knit community. I read the foreword before starting and it’s interesting that a question was raised asking what exactly is the point of wars? It’s just old people sending young people to die.

But in your daily life, just imagine getting from one place to another, timing your movements with a sniper.

So glad I found a copy because I've bee
Tanvir Muntasim
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
What is life like when you are caught in a long drawn out civil war? A memoir set in war torn Beirut, this one captures the life of a closely knit community over a shell shocked evening, and portrays ordinary people showing extraordinary courage and dignity in the face of an unending conflict. Beautifully drawn in an unorthodox way, the people sound like the ones we are surrounded by in our lives, and when you can identify them as such, it's all the more heartbreaking.
Aug 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
An interesting and beautiful portrayal of a conflict I had little knowledge of. The child's perspective was effective in conveying a mix of banality, sudden fear, and creeping dread, while also showing small pleasures. I loved the illustration style.
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent graphic novel about the Lebanese Civil War, told more or less from a child's point of view.
Feb 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Damn you, Sarah!

But, it's pretty amazing that this revolved around one day and so many lives. I was glad for the update at the end.
Jessica Růžková
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Economical and elegant; Abirached’s capacity to portray affinities and relationships made for a very moving reflection on the devastation that is war and loss.
Olavia Kite
Aug 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I cried.
Jul 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: libs678
Son of a Gun
A Game For Swallows: to die, to leave, to return

Pairing and overview:
“A Game For Swallows” is a memoir written by Zeina Abirached about her time in the war torn East Beirut, Lebanon. Sandbags and barrels line the streets of Zeina’s neighborhood to protect the citizens from snipers bullets. In her home, the foyer proves to be the only safe place that her family can find refuge from the violence happening outside. We join the family on a typical night. Zeina’s parents have made the da
In war-torn Beirut, two children await the return of their parents, who left earlier in the day to visit the kids’ grandmother in an adjacent neighborhood. Set in 1984 and based on the life story of the author, this story feels like a more concise relative of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. The tale takes place almost completely during one night. We learn about Lebanon and the conflict there through the stories of the children’s neighbors, who gather in the family apartment as shells blast the st ...more
May 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
In this autobiographical graphic novel set in 1984 Beirut, Zeina has only ever known the civil war raging there. She, her parents and brother live in a second-floor apartment on the demarcation line splitting Beirut into the Islamic west and Christian east. They’re constantly threatened by bombings and snipers, so the family lives in a tiny corner of the apartment, and during heavy bombings, most of the residents in the building come there, too, because it is structurally the safest place to be. ...more
Erin Reilly-Sanders
I really wanted to like this one, as I generally love global fiction and graphic memoirs, but I generally found the book confusing. I think I would have really enjoyed the uniqueness of the art style had it not seemed so similar to Persepolis. I think in actuality it is rather different, with many black pages with white lines as opposed to the other way around but the moderately thick curvy lines and cultural textures are somehow too reminiscent. The story switches from scene to scene in a rathe ...more
Zenia Abirached writes about her childhood in Beirut in 1984 during the height of the civil war in Lebanon. Zenia's family lived in East Beirut right on the demarcation line with West Beirut. They gradually moved into the foyer of their apartment as it was the safest place with no windows. Their days are spent trying to survive the constant bombardments and sniper attacks. One day the parents go to the grandma's house and haven't returned by evening. The children are left alone, but gradually th ...more
I really enjoy learning history from graphic novels/memoirs, especially parts of history that I don’t know much about. Graphic memoirs feel really personal, allowing the reader to connect to the experiences being told in an immersive way. This memoir was told in a similar style to Persepolis, which I really appreciated. This story takes place over the course of one evening of random bombings, but it offers more history through exploring the backstories of all of the members of Reina’s building. ...more
May 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book is often compared to Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (in the NY Times and in the admittedly poor introduction to this book), and while I understand the comparison as there is a similar style, time, and theme at work, Zeina Abirached works to create a unique and beautiful story that is quite distinct from the famous Persepolis.
The short graphic novella takes place in Beirut, Lebanon in the 1980's during the civil war. There are snipers stationed at roof tops that will gun down any civili
Lauren Slanker
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs; students interested in international literature, graphic novels
A Game for Swallows follows the story of two young children - a brother and a sister - while they wait for the parents to return home to their small apartment. The setting takes place in Lebanon in the 1980s during the civil war. Although the book only takes place over a single night, it displays the fear and worry that families had when they were separated during that time.

As the children wait, they are met by a variety of characters that live in their building. From the grandmotherly neighb
Dec 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return by Zeina Abirached
Genre: Memoir
Format: Graphic Novel
Plot summary:Living in the midst of civil war in Beirut, Lebanon, Zeina and her brother face an evening of apprehension when their parents do not return from a visit to the other side of the city.
Considerations or precautions for readers advisory (strong language, sex, death, religious overtones, violence, etc.): Deals with war and death
Review citation (if available):Esther Keller. Library Media
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William Champlin Book Review #3 1 2 Jun 16, 2018 08:30PM  
BYU-Adolescent Li...: A Game for Swallows To Die, To Leave, To Return by Zeina Abirached 1 5 Jun 13, 2013 11:55PM  
Zeina's Grandmother 1 6 May 12, 2013 06:19PM  

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Zeina Abirached was born in Beirut, Lebanon. She studied graphic arts in Beirut and later in Paris, France. She has published 3 graphic novels: 'Beyrouth-Catharsis' '38, Rue Youssef Semaani' and 'Mourir, Partir, Revenir - Le Jeu des Hirondelles'. These were originally published in French, and have been translated into Dutch, Italian, and Spanish. Her mainly autobiographical works, illustrated in b ...more