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Baddawi is the story of a young boy named Ahmad struggling to find his place in the world. Raised in a refugee camp called Baddawi in northern Lebanon, Ahmad is just one of the thousands of Palestinians who fled their homeland after the war in 1948 established the state of Israel.

In this visually arresting graphic novel, Leila Abdelrazaq explores her father’s childhood in the 1960s and '70s from a boy's eye view as he witnesses the world crumbling around him and attempts to carry on, forging his own path in the midst of terrible uncertainty.

128 pages, Paperback

First published April 7, 2015

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About the author

Leila Abdelrazaq

7 books34 followers
Leila is a Palestinian artist and author.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 63 reviews
Profile Image for Tess.
14 reviews5 followers
July 17, 2015
Persepolis meets Maus. Just beautiful. I only wish it were longer! (Hopefully there are more to come?!)
Profile Image for Manar Fleifel.
24 reviews24 followers
August 14, 2015
"Palestine is buried deep in the creases of my grandmother's palms."

Equally sweet and sad, Leila Abdelrazaq's Baddawi is the lightest book I've come across to explain the struggle of the Palestinian people and their lives in exile and diaspora, their remembrance of Palestine and their reflections of their diasporic states of being. This book brought tears to my eyes and cleansed them with smiles sometimes.. Beautiful !
Profile Image for Alyssa Chrisman.
110 reviews2 followers
September 8, 2018
Updated my rating to four stars after discussing this book in class.

This is a graphic novel that tells the story of the author’s father’s childhood and adolescence growing up as a Palestinian in a refugee camp in Lebanon. While parts of it seem disjointed, and I wish I knew more about the conflict and war so I had a better understanding of the book, the illustrations are wonderful— while they may look simple, they are full of symbolism and deeper meanings.
Profile Image for Rawa S..
63 reviews15 followers
April 11, 2015
Leila Abdelrazaq illustrates the story of her Palestinian father's upbringing in Baddawi - a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon - in a way that captures the reader from the very first page. I read it all in one sitting, and was upset when I reached the last page. I hope there's more to come.
Profile Image for lkh0ja.
55 reviews2 followers
May 27, 2015
Baddawi is a beautifully written, wonderfully illustrated coming-of-age graphic novel that is really about the Palestinian struggle. I cannot recommend it enough; a really touching read.
889 reviews5 followers
May 14, 2018
Palestine was the next stop in my Around the World book club and this was the perfect choice. After some dry, difficult books it was nice to have a graphic novel to enjoy, and this one manages to pack so much substance into a short amount of space. Telling the story of the conflict in Palestine through the eyes of a child, Baddawi really hits home how much the Palestinian people have suffered over the last 80 years. To be stateless, without a passport or country recognized by other nations, is quite a hardship - you are never legal, you can't travel, and there are so many things blocking you from fulfilling basic needs and safety. It's impossible not to read this and think of Arab of the Future or Persepolis - Baddawi fits comfortably into that niche. I actually wish this was longer and could have included more detail as the story is beautifully told and impactful. I think this is an important read for anyone looking to understand the conflicts surrounding Israel in the Middle East.
Profile Image for Kirin.
451 reviews28 followers
June 10, 2021
This 8.5 x 8.5 middle school graphic novel biography tells a powerful story of a young boy coming of age and striving to find his place in the chaos of the Nakba and its aftermath.  Over 128 pages the reader will learn and be outraged about the displacement and genocide of so many Palestinians as they see the events through Ahmad's eyes and relate to his dreams and experiences despite the terror around him. The book has violence, destruction, death and mentions rape, yet the humanity shines through as it is also heartfelt and memorable.  I had my 14, 12, and 10 year olds read it and we have discussed it at length in context to what they already know about Palestine and the ethnic cleansing occurring.  It is a seamless mix of history and character driven narratives brought to life by the black and white illustrations of the author/illustrator's family history.


There are 10 children in the author's father's family, and her father, Ahmad, was born in a refugee camp in northern Lebanon, called Baddawi.  The story starts on October 29, 1948 when Safsaf was ethnically cleansed.  Ahmad's father, the author's grandfather had been in Akka at the time of the massacre, and her grandmother hid from the Israeli soldiers, the family, once reunited, would escape for a refugee camp, hoping that they would one day return.

We first get to know Ahmad as he starts first grade in Baddawi.  Things do not start well for the little guy as right away he gets teased by other students, his class is too large so he is selected to be joined with a girls class, and he doesn't have soccer cleats so he isn't allowed to play soccer, luckily he gets two good crayons, unlike his friend who gets a white one.  Ahmad is identifiable by his striped shirt that he wears throughout as a nod to Handala, the boy depicted with a striped shirt with his hands clasped behind his back and his face not shown.  The artist said his face would be revealed when Palestine was free, sadly the artist, Naji al-Ali passed away, and Palestine is still occupied.

Ahmad desperate to purchase soccer cleats devises a business plan that his mother takes as gambling and quickly puts an end to, in exchange she offers to pay him if he helps her collect and prepare za'atar.  It isn't as fun, or as lucrative, but they family is busy packing up to return to Palestine.  Unfortunately the Naksa, the setback, the six day war occurs, and more Palestinians are ethnically cleansed and the families cannot return. Ahmad and all those in Baddawi carry on, playing, celebrating Eid, trying to claim normalcy.  The camp however, is not safe and soldiers raid the camp killing PLO leaders and innocent people in their way.  With no option but to keep on keeping on, these acts of violence are often taken in stride. It is so hard to believe, but what else can they do, the children still play, deal with bullies, and cope with universal struggles in addition to being shot by rubber bullets, and fearing cluster bombs and shellings.  At one point Ahmad and his siblings are left in Baddawi to finish school while his parents are in Beirut.  

When the family is reunited in Beirut, Ahmad is in a better school, but violence follows as Mossad agents start raiding PLO homes in Lebanon.  Ahmad goes back and forth between Beirut and Baddawi, wherever he can go to school.  His favorite library is the one at the American University in Beirut and he hopes to attend school there, but without connections, he is at a loss to come up with funding.  His intellect finally lands him an opportunity to leave the Middle East to pursue higher education, he ends up in the United States, and when the story ends, readers are left hoping that everything works out even knowing it will be 10 years before he can return home to see his family.


I love that the harsh horrific life is not shied away from in a war, but the little things are just as important in shaping and showing Palestinians to be resilient and culture rich.  I love how the concept of Handala is included and amplified.  The book is at times funny, and at other times devastating.  The connection to the characters is pretty remarkable, in such a relatively short book, and I am fairly confident it will be pulled off the shelf and thumbed through often.  I really wanted to know if the girl in the book that Ahmad left behind ended up being the author's mother, or if he married someone else, but I couldn't find it by Googling.  This book is truly powerful, and I highly recommend it.  There isn't a lot of religion, the family is shown praying on Eid and celebrating.  It mentions the diversity in Beirut, but nothing too detailed.  Similarly, there isn't a lot of political detail.  There is a glossary at the end, some actual photographs of Ahmad and his family.  At the beginning of the book there is a preface about Handala and how Ahmad represents more than just her father's experience as well as information about the tatreez patterns on the pages and a map.


There is violence, torture, killing, death and possibly gambling.  The book mentions that women were raped, but it isn't detailed.  The war is ever present and depicted, but it isn't sensationalized.  Ahmad and a girl study together and the family wants them to get married, but Ahmad opts instead to leave for school, nothing inappropriate.


This book might not work as a book club selection, but I hope middle school children and their teachers or parents will encourage them to read this book and think about it.  Imagine if it was their homes that were taken, imagine what they would do, and how they would manage, and to be aware that it is still going on and that we cannot be silent.
Profile Image for Lana.
3 reviews9 followers
May 21, 2017
Baddawi is so much more than the story of her father's childhood. It's the story of my dad's childhood. It's the story of every Palestinian kid was born in a refugee camp post-Nakba. I loved it.
Profile Image for Akin.
291 reviews16 followers
March 31, 2016

('Haaretz', Nov. 26, 2015)

"Baddawi," by Leila Abdelrazaq, Just World Books, 128 pp., $20

"The Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978-1984," by Riad Sattouf, Metropolitan Books, 160 pp., $26

How much faith can one place in another’s account of the past? No writer can be an entirely objective observer, of course; some, however, have the skill to turn their subjective lens into a positive attribute. The American writer and essayist Lynne Tillmans puts it like this: “Like histories, diaries are accounts of the past. Unlike histories, they are not written retrospectively, and subjectivity is their central claim to truth.”

This rule of thumb isn’t precisely correct (diaries are all too often edited and expurgated), but it is a useful metric nonetheless. Subjectivity permits the author to say, without fear of contradiction, “this is my truth.” Readers, for their part, grant the author and his or her narrative the benefit of the doubt.

But do memoirs, given their personal – and thus subjective – perspective deserve the benefit of doubt? Two recent books, both graphic memoirs and both closely connected to the experiences of the authors’ fathers in different parts of the Middle East, raise interesting questions about this literary form.

"Baddawi," written and drawn by the Palestinian-American writer Leila Abdelrazaq, seeks to extract uncontested truth from the fuzzy space that lies between subjective experience and objective reality. Her story begins with her grandparents’ expulsion during Israel's War of Independence, to a Lebanese refugee camp; it ends, in the early 1980s, when her father, Ahmad, leaves Lebanon for a new life in America. The story of the years in between is a fragmented narrative of loss and longing, of her father’s pining for a homeland he never knew.

Abdelrazaq’s personal engagement with her father’s childhood clearly informs the larger ambitions she has for his story. “This story you are about to read isn’t only about my father,” she writes in the book’s preface. “It is about my cousins and aunts and uncles… about five million people, born into a life of exile and persecution, indefinitely suspended in statelessness.”

From her father’s story, Abdelrazaq seeks a synecdoche for the narrative of the dispossessed Palestinian nation. But one child’s shoulders might be too slender to carry the weight of five million subjective experiences.

Ahmad was born in Baddawi – the refugee camp from which the book takes its name – some years after the 1948 war. His parents were driven from Safsaf, a village in northern Israel, during Operation Hiram – the nascent Israeli army’s push to secure the Galilee in the last days of the war. When soldiers arrived at his village, Ahmad’s father was away; his mother, 17 years old, hid while the men of the village were rounded up and shot. The survivors, Ahmad’s parents among them, fled, believing that they would be able to return to their homes at some point in the future. But, of course, they would not.

Empathetic mise en scene

From Ahmad’s perspective, life in Baddawi is routine, unexceptional. He goes to school, makes friends and rivals, invents a gambling game to earn a few piastres and buy himself a pair of soccer boots; the last, unsurprisingly, causes a ruckus.

It is easy for the reader to recognize that this is far from a normal life. Ahmad’s childhood unfolds in the shadow of existential uncertainty, the manifest abnormality of life as a dispossessed refugee. The Israeli and Lebanese armies (separately) raid and bomb the camp, hunting down Palestinian Liberation Organization “resistance fighters.” (This is a matter of perspective, after all: One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist and all that.) Ahmad processes the intrusions with a matter-of-factness that only serves to underscore the painful poignancy of his truth.

Abdelrazaq has an instinctive knack for shaping an empathetic mise en scene, interweaving episodes from everyday life with interludes of quiescence and silent longing. We see Ahmad wandering the hillsides to harvest hyssop, his grandfather shepherding his meager flock of sheep on the slopes. These are opportunities, understated yet effective, to demonstrate the Palestinian yearning for freedom and emancipation. The mood is complemented by Abdelrazaq’s minimalist illustrations, rendered in a muted palette of black and grays. Intricate geometric patterns – representations of tatreez, traditional Palestinian embroidery – serve as visual interstitials, lending "Baddawi" both character and anthropological depth.

But – and there’s all too often a “but” when it comes to matters of perspective and the Middle East: Abdelrazaq – a theater arts graduate of Chicago’s DePaul University, and pro-Palestinian activist – clearly has the right to use her father’s story as the starting point for a more expansive political argument. But this right comes with a duty, to be faithful as she can to her father’s narrative by bridging the gap between the subjective and the objective convincingly. And it’s on this point that "Baddawi" wavers.

These shortcomings aren’t of themselves the result of an increasingly partisan perspective, Abdelrazaq casually throwing in the rhetoric of “Zionist terrorist organizations” and “mass ethnic cleansing.” Things that shouldn’t have happened did occur during the war of 1948 and its aftermath; the labels appended to these events shouldn’t detract from the facts. Rather, the problem comes from the incompleteness of her narrative.

As Ahmad eases into young manhood and Lebanon into the quagmire of civil war, the empathetic vignettes that defined the first half of the book become thin and insubstantial, all the more so because they are now, deliberately, rooted in the wider political context, but not fleshed out with the detail they demand.

As "Baddawi" becomes more overtly political, it slips into an untested didacticism, reducing the complexities of the Lebanese civil war to easy compartmentalization of good and bad; the Palestinian nation, in Abdelrazaq’s telling, are the perpetual, passive victim. The unintended consequence of this storytelling bait-and-switch is that "Baddawi" feels much less confident about the certainties of Ahmad’s world: Abruptly, he stops feeling real, and becomes much more an avatar attempting – and failing – to represent a million (or five) different faces.

It’s a shame because the good in "Baddawi" – and there is much to recommend in it – is smothered by this poorly executed sleight-of-hand, the insistence that one boy’s life can represent the undifferentiated experience of an entire people. The plight of the Palestinian people demands closer examination, this much is obvious. But Ahmad’s subjective experiences are his, and should be left for him alone.

Showing, not telling

"The Arab of the Future," a first-person graphic memoir by the cartoonist and film director Riad Sattouf, presents as somewhat more sophisticated, albeit through the counter-intuitive conceit of the story being narrated by the author’s 4-year-old self. Sattouf sensibly concentrates on showing – and not telling – what his younger self experienced during his peripatetic childhood in Libya, France and Syria. Wisdom is supposed to come from the mouths of children who are innocent and honest, after all. And who would pick an ideological fight with a 4-year-old?

Riad is the first child of Abdel-Razak and Clementine. Abdel-Razak, effusive and irrepressible, is a Syrian emigre, a brilliant student awarded a scholarship to study for a doctorate in modern history at the Sorbonne. Clementine, reserved and level-headed, is a student from Brittany; she takes pity on Abdel-Razak after a friend sets him up on a nonexistent date, and ends up falling for his charms.

Riad, with doe-like eyes and blond hair that frames his features like a temporal halo, has a charm of his own; gentle and passive, he is the constant focus of adoring adults. He has none of his father’s temperament, which seems not to be a bad thing as the elder Sattouf’s impetuousness edges itself way to the center stage of the narrative.

Abdel-Razak loves the freedoms of France (“They even pay you to be a student!” he exclaims), but loathes the racism, perceived and real, of his hosts; he is particularly aggrieved when he fails to score the highest grades for his doctoral dissertation, conveniently ignoring Clementine’s substantial editorial assistance. He is offered a teaching position at Oxford, but turns it down because the letter from the university misspells his name. Eventually, he takes up a position in Libya: Without as much as a by-your-leave, the family is packed and on its way to Tripoli.

Abdel-Razak fancies himself a pan-Arabist, with a strong belief in the emancipatory qualities of mass education; in General Muammar Gadhafi, he sees a progressive leader with an ambitious vision for his desert state and surmises that Libya will be the perfect fit for the Sattoufs. As if. From the start, the reality is dystopian confusion. Because private property is outlawed, all living accommodation is free… and unlocked. They move into an apartment, go for a short walk and return to find their belongings neatly piled on the doorstep. “It was empty, my brother,” the new tenant explains through a crack in the doorway. “Just try a few doors down, you’ll find another house.”

There’s a huge gap, Abdel-Razak soon discovers, between Gadhafi’s political rhetoric and the reality wrought by his striking eccentricity. This distance is magnified when viewed through young Riad’s hypersensitive eyes. They queue for food – there is a surfeit of bananas, for some reason – at a local cooperative (men and women on separate days). The inevitable fisticuffs aside, Riad becomes obsessed with smells, noting that the men reek of urine and sweat, the women of dust.

Clementine takes up an unpaid job as a French-language newsreader for a radio station, but hurriedly resigns after committing the unforgivable faux-pas of laughing, live on-air, at one of Gadhafi’s more fanciful proclamations (something about personally crossing the Atlantic to kill “that son-of-a-bitch Reagan”).

Rank weirdness

Unsurprisingly, Libya doesn’t work out. Gnomic pronouncements from both the Leader (proposing the ultimate job swap – teachers to become farmers, and vice versa) and the Father (“Would you like a little brother to play with?”) confuse poor Riad, and he decides, sensibly, to pretend that nothing is happening. But this doesn’t stop him being swept back, without warning, to France and his grandmother’s house, a Gothic cottage on the northwestern coast.

The French, Riad discovers, are just as weird as the Libyans (if, admittedly, better fed). But before he has the chance to settle down, the family is off again, this time to Syria, which Abdel-Razak hasn’t visited for 13 years. Different place, same sweat and smells. It hardly helps that Riad’s cousins, borderline feral and suspicious of his blond hair, conclude that he is a Jew. (Feel free to fill in the gaps here.)

Abdel-Razak, in the meantime, discovers that his older brother has swindled him out of his inheritance. Not the perfect homecoming, it’s fair to say. In the meantime Clementine, with a newborn child to look after as well as Riad, soldiers away uncomplainingly.

More a series of overlapping vignettes than linear storytelling, the connecting thread that draws "The Arab of the Future" together is the rank weirdness with which the world presents itself to a small, rootless child.

In Libya, Riad makes friends with a Yemeni boy his age, who is obsessed with the Libyan national anthem and pistols; in France, his budding artistic talent (his party piece is a realistic rendering of Georges Pompidou, erstwhile French prime minister) is smothered when his classmates insist that meaningless scribbles yield more pleasure.

It does at times feel that "The Arab of the Future" pays back the various unkindnesses that befall Riad with an equally ungenerous coin. The anonymous locals of Libya and Syria are portrayed as uniformly swarthy and sweaty – uneven teeth and warts often crowning a lack of aesthetic grace. To be fair, these are the unredacted recollections of a small child. Still, Sattouf’s recollections of the Middle Eastern man on the street sometimes steer too close to reductive stereotyping.

But for all this, a balance of sorts emerges from Riad’s characterization of his father. Vainglorious yet indecisive, his politically progressive views don’t elevate him above crude racial invective when it suits him. His attitudes to his Arab brethren are perhaps the most contradictory.

“If [left to] decide for themselves, they do nothing,” he declares over dinner with Clementine’s family. “They’re lazy-ass bigots, even though they have the same potential as everyone else.” But minutes later, he is singing a different tune. “When the Arabs are educated, they’ll free themselves from the old dictators,” he predicts. Abdel-Razaq, of course, is educated: He is, in his mind at least, the Arab of the Future.

"The Arab of the Future" (the first part of a planned trilogy; the second was published in France last spring) works because it doesn’t lay any claims to an overt prescience about the future of the Middle East. Rather, it is an engaging portrait of a complex and contradictory character; the political and social landscape of the Middle East complement, rather than define, Abdel-Razak.

And it is this that distinguishes "The Arab of the Future" from "Baddawi": because the former is manifestly more faithful to the retrospective gaze, the reader is inclined to give it, absurdities and all, the benefit of the doubt.
5 reviews2 followers
January 8, 2019
the book very short, yet powerful. The main character, storyline and narration style is very gripping. I really liked the main character and the constant reminder that this character is what Hanthala stands for from the point of view of children within the Palestinian refugee communities. The ending of the book, however, was not as satisfying as I hoped for.
Profile Image for Jennah.
194 reviews1 follower
January 20, 2020
An important read about life as a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon

I just wish the ending was a bit stronger. It felt rushed.
Profile Image for Tye Emert.
1 review
April 21, 2017
I wanted to like this book. I enjoyed the author's family story and artwork but couldn't get swept up in it.

I did learn a few things. Like how the Irguns were enthic cleansing in Israel and how Leila Abdelrazaq feels the injustice that this group got absorbed into the Israeli defense force. Which I agree that just because your people have been persecuted for hundreds of years and survived genocide itself does not give you the right to do the same but this applies to all people.

But the one thing I kept getting pulled out of Abdelrazaq's father's story, Ahmad was that she kept interjecting her author's personal political intrusions of the Palestinian Liberation Organization or PLO's list of fatalities which not all of these Palestinian Resistance Leaders were not exempt from guilt. The PLO's 'operations' has been mostly targeting Israeli citizens. Which can include anyone who identifies themself as an Israeli.

The review I read from Akin on Goodreads, has a valuable point in "One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist..." The history of PLO is not a pretty one. The PLO is responsible for numerous terrorist actions, like the Dawson's Field Hijacking in which Americans were on board, the Avivim School Bus Massacre and the Munich Massacre in 1972 was carried out by an offshoot of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine which is a part of the PLO. They have operated inside the refugee camps, Ahmad was living in. This action does not reflect a brave freedom fighter for the PLO is literally using their own people as human shields. And I understood why Ahmad wanted to flee and get away.

I just wish that Abdelrazaq hadn't ignored this part of the organization's history which would have felt more real because the PLO tended to affect her father, Ahmad and not in a good way, which is why he wanted to leave Baddawi.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a mess. Palestinians are considered a ethno-national group which a shared national identity that includes many ethnic groups, which consists of mostly Arabs. But not all Arabs identify with Palestinians. While the Jews are considered an ethno-religious group which is a shared religion that includes many ethnic groups. For example a Bedouin which are a nomadic ethnic people can identify themself as either an Israeli or Palestinian and a Bedouin can also be Moslem or a Jew. This is where the lines blur between ethnicity, religion and above all the clash with these two national identities.

Abdelrazaq does a great job of showing her father's struggle to survive and the art style she inherited from her heritage.

We are human after all. And I understand the pain of the injustice of being outcast from where her family had lived for years.

But I also want to point out that the idea of Palestine is relatively new and was not a state. And was once a subjected Mandatory State of the British in 1948 and did not had governing body for itself until the PLO formed in 1967 and became the 'sole represtation of the Palestinians.'

I enjoyed watching Ahmad growing up and Abdelrazaq's illustrations but I could not agree with her political leanings which detracted from the overall story she was trying to convey.
Profile Image for Claire.
122 reviews13 followers
May 9, 2018
This graphic novel was a very quick read that depicts one Palestinian-American family's immigration story in a highly readable format. I thought some parts could have been better developed, but on the other hand the book's brevity will make it more easily and widely accessible. I think it's really important to read immigration stories; each one is different and gives a glimpse into struggles that many other Americans can only imagine. In this case, picture growing up in a refugee camp, studying through bomb attacks and heading to an American university on a visa that does not guarantee permission to return to your family in Lebanon since you are a stateless person. The main character, Ahmed, is a real person with a story that may be shared by our classmates without our realizing it. It's our responsibility to listen and learn from people like Ahmed's daughter Leila who share such stories.
Profile Image for Marcy.
Author 3 books98 followers
June 11, 2015
There is a lot to love about this graphic novel: the story is well told, the illustrations are simple and engaging, the tatreez design running throughout the book is beautiful. I especially enjoyed reading this book because I have spent quite a bit of time in Baddawi refugee camp and felt that Abdelrazaq brought so much to life. My only negative thoughts related to the book are those that make me wonder how much people who don't know Palestinian and Lebanese history will be able to follow that context. There is so much more that could be brought out in terms of those aspects--if she had I would say this would be a terrific teaching tool, but it doesn't quite present enough information here, especially in relation to the Lebanese civil war.
Profile Image for Sarah.
151 reviews10 followers
January 16, 2016
It's not that I disliked this book, but I thought the narrative needed more thought and development. It was extremely expository, which makes it valuable in explaining the basics of Palestinian circumstances and history, but as a reader I didn't feel transported. I wasn't hanging on, wondering "What's going to happen? How could that happen?" The drawings are great, especially the bigger ones combining lots of graphic elements. Maybe I'll come back to this one and see if I can find the energy I didn't see this time around, for whatever reason.
Profile Image for Megan Geissler.
280 reviews10 followers
November 3, 2015
Another telling of the Palestinian experience, this time chronicling the author's father's childhood as a stateless refugee in a Lebanese camp. The illustrations are really well-crafted and convey the sentiments of futility and powerlessness that the protagonist experiences. Traditional Palestinian embroidery patterns weave across the pages, helping to keep the refugee camp story connected to Palestine. Glossary covers foreign language terminology.
Profile Image for Ahmed Masoud.
15 reviews6 followers
December 30, 2015
Brilliant coming of age story. It takes the reader to the heart of the Palestinian refugee dilemma and offers hope and resilience while telling the story of Palestine. Definitely recommended.
Profile Image for Robert Boyd.
160 reviews26 followers
November 5, 2018
This is the story of Leila Abdelrazaq's father Ahmad, who was born and raised in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon called Baddawi. It mainly deals with his boyhood in a world where political events are unfolding around him continuously. He lives part of the time in Baddawi and part of the time in Beirut, where his father ends up working. The book before his birth with the Nakba, or the catastrophe as Palestinians refer to their expulsion from Palestine by the Israelis. Ahmad's family is one of those that flees to Lebanon and becomes stateless residents of a refugee camp. But one doesn't get a sense of privation from this account--she tells of Ahmad's father's work and the various delicious-sounding dishes his family made for him, for example. Eventually the family moves to Beirut because his father gets a better job there, and Ahmad gets serious about his education. But Lebanon in the 70s descends into civil war. The complicated politics of this are glossed over quickly, but Ahmad ends up moving back to Baddawi to study for his baccalaureate because Beirut has become too dangerous. But Baddawi is hardly a safe haven. It gets bombed as well.

In some ways Abdelrazaq's work is similar to Marjane Satrapi's in Persepolis--the drawing is simple but effective, for example. And like in Satrapi's memoir, important and disturbing political events unfold around Ahmad, but the most enjoyable parts of the book for me were the parts where he was just being a boy--hunting birds with his friends, studying at the American University for his baccalaureate exams, trying to get a job, hustling other kids with his exceptional marble-playing skills. In a way, this is a weakness in the book that we readers understand is meant to be polemical, but it doesn't really succeed in making its political point all that well. Abdelrazaq is better at telling her father's story than at turning it into propaganda. In this way it might be instructive to compare it to Joe Sacco's searing Footnotes in Gaza--a brutal story of the Nakba which is an unparalleled polemic in comics form. The question then is whether it is better to tell the very human story of Ahmad or to tell the highly political story that Sacco did.
Profile Image for Andrea Beatriz Arango.
Author 5 books103 followers
May 19, 2021
"When Israel began ethnically cleansing Palestine in 1947, it was believed that the Palestine people would disappear with time, that we would be absorbed into other nations, that our stories would be lost, that the old would die and the young would forget. This book is a testament to the fact that we have not forgotten."

BADDAWI is a graphic novel memoir that works for both upper middle grade and YA audiences. (And is also perfect for adults, so don't shy away.) In it, Leila Abdelrazaq shares the story of her father, Ahmad, and his childhood spent as a refugee in both Baddawi and Beirut.

Leila's debut book, illustrated entirely in black and white, takes us through the events of Ahmad's life up to the 1980s, at which point Ahmad leaves for the United States. And while I would have loved to see the story continue, I appreciate Leila's focus on her dad's formative years, as well as her unflinching approach to melding bombings and massacres with the day-to-day adventures of a boy coming of age with his friends.

I know there are a lot of great nonfiction books out there on the history of Palestine - I've seen the lists making the bookstagram rounds. But realistically, I have found that young people engage more with real people's stories than they do with dry facts void of faces or names. And as a teacher, I was searching for something a little younger, a little more familiar, a little more shareable, and definitely something illustrated and concrete.

So. If you're looking for a book to shed some historical context as to what is currently happening in Palestine, and you're someone who appreciates mature #KidLit or have kids in your life with whom you want to share, then I highly recommend you look this one up.
14 reviews
May 17, 2023
got to think more about the palestinian identity and what it means to keep it alive, how the characters were able to cope and find hope (whether through swimming or keeping a knife under their pillow in the face of shellings). again, the perspective of a child growing up in baddawi and later in beirut after being displaced from palestine was incredibly insightful and added to a normally news- or nonfiction historical book-oriented accounts of palestinian history. wasn't unaware of the israeli occupation of southern lebanon and how long-lasting it was until this book.
Profile Image for Edward Sullivan.
Author 5 books204 followers
May 23, 2018
Abdelrazaq explores her father’s childhood struggling to find his place in the world as he is raised in a refugee camp called Baddawi in northern Lebanon. Ahmad' story is just one of the many thousands of Palestinians who fled their homeland after the war in 1948 established the state of Israel. Reading this after the recent horrific events in Gaza makes it all the more poignant.

Profile Image for Nina.
6 reviews
February 9, 2022
Baddawi is a biography written in the form of a graphic novel about the childhood of Ahmad Abdelrazaq written by his daughter, Leila Abdelrazaq. Baddawi is a coming of age story of Ahmad’s life at a refugee camp in Lebanon for Palestinians. The camp’s name is Baddawi. At Baddawi, Ahmad attends school and studies hard. When the weather is good, Ahmad also enjoys swimming. At Baddawi, the Palestinians must be careful of abandoned mines and grenades and missile strikes. Most Palestinians can not work in Lebanon because they are refugees, but Ahmad’s dad is able to get a job and after finishing his school year they move into an apartment. Ahmad goes through an emotional journey throughout his time living in Lebanon as a refugee, going back to Baddawi, meeting a girl he likes, and doing lots and lots of studying. Ultimately, Ahmad must make a decision that dictates his future.

This graphic novel is a great book to introduce to grades 4-7. It can be used for students to practice their interpreting and analyzing text using support from the illustrations. The story has a very unique sequence, so it could also be used for students to practice story-mapping and structure/patterns of events. It would also be interesting to try and incorporate this book in a lesson about immigration and comparing its themes and topics to another story about refugees. I think this book is very valuable as it can be used to be taught empathy and cultural sensitivity. This book is an excellent read and resource to learn about Palestinians.
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,014 reviews13 followers
March 12, 2018
I love learning about other cultures and this was a great way to see something of the experience of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. I particularly liked the part about how hard it was to get a visa to the US.
Profile Image for Nico.
40 reviews2 followers
January 13, 2019
This is a touching story about Palestinians seen through the eyes of a Palestinian refugee growing up in Lebanese camps. Although sometimes it appears simplistic about the Lebanese civil war, it remains a book worth reading about Palestinian refugees children.
Profile Image for Salamanderinspace.
127 reviews8 followers
December 2, 2019
A beautiful and informative little book. It does a great job of situating you in a child's perspective, telling stories that blend the authentic with the universal: tales of bird hunting, gambling with marbles, and the Lebanese Civil War. Would recommend.
Profile Image for ElFalleret.
34 reviews
June 3, 2022
Very nice and sad book. I have really like how it tells the story through a kid. The plot is more to describe the atmosphere of war and war crimes against a town that has been abandoned, the traditions Palestinian people keep and how a kid grows in these conditions.
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