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Lissa: A Story about Medical Promise, Friendship, and Revolution
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Lissa: A Story about Medical Promise, Friendship, and Revolution

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  235 ratings  ·  39 reviews
As young girls in Cairo, Anna and Layla strike up an unlikely friendship that crosses class, cultural, and religious divides. Years later, Anna learns that she may carry the hereditary cancer gene responsible for her mother's death. Meanwhile, Layla's family is faced with a difficult decision about kidney transplantation. Their friendship is put to the test when these medi ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published November 14th 2017 by University of Toronto Press
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Average rating 4.14  · 
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Stewart Tame
Mar 30, 2018 rated it liked it
The jacket flap touts this as the first book in a new series, “... that realizes ethnographic research in graphic novel form.” Sounds potentially boring, I know, but it's actually pretty cool. Anna and Layla strike up an unlikely friendship as young girls in Cairo. When Anna’s mother dies of cancer, she is forced to return to the US to live, though the two friends promise to stay in touch. In later years, each faces a medical crisis--Anna, the choice of preventive surgery to decrease her chances ...more
Using a graphic medium to study ethnography - a pretty brilliant idea. Lissa is the first of a series called ethnoGRAPHIC, published by the University of Toronto.

The story follows two girls throughout their teenage years and early adulthood - one an Egyptian Muslim daughter of a chaffeur, the other an American expat between their intersecting lives in Cairo, Egypt, and Boston, USA.

Written with the specific purpose of ethnographic and anthropological education, each of the young women face medic
Matthew Noe
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As a reader, this is a moving and beautifully constructed comic bridging two cultures, medical traumas, and revolution itself.

As a scholar/teacher, this is exactly the sort of work I believe we need in graphic medicine (or other graphic disciplines). The story can be approached by anyone, but it also can be pulled apart and discussed in depth from any number of points of entry. In particular, the illustrations about genetic testing and patents are lesson in themselves. The authors also provide
Feb 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
What an interesting book, and what a fascinating way to make ones research more accessible outside of the academia. The story is set primarily in Cairo and the US. It's a story of two girls--Layla, who is the daughter of a bawab in Cairo, and is studying to be a doctor, and Anna--whose American father works for an oil company in Egypt and whose mother has recently died of breast cancer. Anna fears the gene for the cancer is also in her, and explores the option of getting a preventive mastectomy. ...more
A. David Lewis
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is as close to the perfect book as I have ever read. I say this as someone who writes on comics & religion, who is doing research on comics & cancer, who is a convert to Islam, and is a Caucasian American. I know not everyone shares my demographics and my interests, but, if I can't praise LISSA, then who can?

It's a daring, beautiful, intelligent, and enriching book, touching on so many urgent topics (primarily, the ethnography of the Arab Spring in Cairo but also cancer research, preventat
Maggie Gordon
Lissa is a fascinating combination of academic research presented through a narrative graphic novel. It's an intriguing way of trying to make scholarly work more accessible, though I think this particular book failed a bit both as a good reflection of the academic research, but also as a compelling narrative. Though the creators were obviously trying to avoid putting out a 1000 page book, there needed to be a bit more depth to make either aspect of the comic memorable. However, admirable efforts ...more
Mar 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Modern, cultural, research-based, critical, peer-reviewed, creative, and cross-disciplinary. A great example of collaboration across disciplines, especially with the graffiti artist Ganzeer.
It doesn't talk down, judge or tip-toe around the tensions between healthcare, government and Islam in Egypt.
it's a very interesting, very unexpected graphic novel about medical decision making set during the egyptian revolution. i just think it could have gone a bit deeper re: the medical decision making stuff as sherine hamdy is an academic and this is her area.
Ganzeer Ganzeer
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Upon first glance, LISSA comes off as the sort of book that I would not at all be interested in. For one, the art style isn’t the type that typically attracts me, because it is the sort of style that one would generally associate with books geared to a much younger audience. Secondly, the book, upon first glance, seems to deal with the Egyptian revolution in some fashion. This isn’t in itself a bad thing, but because the Egyptian revolution is too grand and important a topic, I find that most gr ...more
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: muslim-reads
Lissa: A Story about Medical Promise, Friendship, and Revolution is a graphic novel following two girls, one American and one Egyptian, as they grow up, choose careers, and lose family members. Although the story is fictional, it combines anthropological research about American and Egyptian healthcare cultures with the story of the 2011 Egyptian revolution. This unique concept (ethnography via graphic novel) is the first in a series called ethnoGRAPHIC from the University of Toronto Press.

The st
Oct 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
I was very hopeful about this book as I picked it up at a local Half Price Books. I enjoy looking for graphic novels that embark on a journey of humanity. This one, however, tried too hard.

Honestly, I wanted to like it. I wanted it to be powerful and changing, and I think the authors intended it to as well, but it is simply so poorly executed that readers stomp through without feeling moved. There is no a speck of natural empathy the book creates for readers that the Egyptian revolution wouldn'
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lissa is wonderful and the story is only half the reason why.

Lissa represents the first of a ‘ethnographic’ series: a combination of classic anthropological ethnography and graphic novels. The plot of Lissa is fictional and yet it is not. The narratives in this novel are informed by research and pull from either shared political experiences or common cultural sentiments. It’s something of compounded character story, which is a tactic that De Leon (Land of Open Graves) and Alice Goffman (On the
Dec 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels, 2017
I thought this was a very good book that took on a variety of topics. It revolves around the friendship between two friends living very far apart after one of them moved away in her youth. It tackles some huge medical issues which is very timely for me right now as I deal with my own health issues which might be one of the reasons that I liked it so much. I enjoyed reading about the girls' opposing beliefs about medical procedures largely rooted in religion and the cultures they grew up in and t ...more
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book contains a foreword and lots of additional information and resources after the story. These resources provide information about the Egyptian revolution and about the medical conditions and procedures depicted in the story. They are worth checking out.

The story follows two friends, one Egyptian (Layla) and one American (Anna), as they deal with health issues of family, friends, and themselves while also struggling to find a place in the revolutionary events going on in Egypt.

Dec 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this with tears in my eyes. Moving, eye-opening, and easy to consume.

As someone with little to no knowledge about the Egyptian Revolution, I believe this graphic novel accomplished what it set out to do in reaching a broader audience who would not normally connect with or read this story (like myself).

This not only afforded me a new perspective, but a heart wrenching story with beautiful flow and relatable characters that developed along the way.

I’d recommend it and definitely see myself
Aug 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book has a strong educational agenda, but it still tells a compelling story of friendship across cultural barriers. Anna, an American girl, spent a good portion of her childhood growing up in Cairo where she befriended Layla, a neighbor. Layla and her family support and comfort Anna when her mother is diagnosed with, and ultimately dies of, breast cancer. As college students, Layla decides to study medicine while Anna studies photography in the US and struggles with the realization that she ...more
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A powerful and moving tale that takes the reader into the world's of medicine and Egyptian politics. The story contends with the dominance of Big Pharma and corrupt elites. There is a parallel battle for justice in medicine and politics; a struggle to gain control of one's body and one's life. The contrasts and parallels between Egypt and the USA are wielded with great skill: in the hands of the authors and artists, each country helps illuminate the other.

Side note 1: the book is feminist, pro-
Night Owl Reader
Oct 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
It wasn’t very good, a little bit all over the place. The transition from one scene to another wasn’t very distinct, I didn’t feel like the story was very in-depth. It didn’t really deal with any of the topics it was handling very well. It was too rushed, and not enough backstory was add. I still don’t feel like I truly know any of the characters aside from shallow details. Overall, I gave this graphic novel 2 stars.
Jun 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
A really interesting idea to get academics to write graphic novels, but I was worried it would come across as more of a lesson than fully realized story. Luckily this is extremely well done, with fully realized characters with unique struggles and motivations. Can't wait to see what comes next from ethnoGRAPHIC!
Aug 31, 2019 rated it liked it
Lisa is an interesting book, it does a good job of telling intertwining stories and highlighting cultural differences while also transcending them. I just felt it cane heavily laden with more analysis than I wanted or needed. I respect that the authors operate through an anthropological lens, but a story should speak for itself.
Aug 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
this book is incredible! it’s beautifully illustrated and a very thorough ethnography; the choice to fictionalize the research through anna and layla was brilliant. dr. nye and dr. hamdy were really able to portray such vast research in a more palatable and personal format. you definitely don’t need to have studied anthropology to understand this!
Oct 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Read for uni and thoroughly enjoyed!! A superb transduction of ethnographic fieldwork in graphic novel form: incredibly engaging and insightful; this narrative gives voice to the people it is about and the significance of their efforts and sacrifices for "dignity and justice" (to use their words) in the Egyptian Revolution of 2011-
Sasha Boersma
A very complex story told so well. Deeper than the themes are these unusual juxtapositions of seemingly untreated issues presented in parallel, which is an amazing way to compare/contrast emotional events.
Mateen Mahboubi
Jun 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
A great cross-cultural story of growing up as a girl in a tumultuous part of the world. At times I found that they tried to put too much into the story and it got a bit overwhelming but I guess that it can feel like an overwhelming world sometimes
So much going on here! Cancer, culture, revolution, parents passing away, and medicine as both doctor and patient. This is well-done and interesting, I can imagine reading it in a college class.
Taylor Bell
Sep 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
thoughtfully illustrated. deftly explores the ways in which our bodies and our selves are always (necessarily) imbricated with those of others. really wonderful!
Jenny Xu
Dec 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jenny by: Roshni Sahoo
Really touching and very relatable book about the loss of someone and the process of grieving.
abby p
Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Incredible and accessible read regarding boundaries, whether economic, gender, religious etc.
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful read
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Amazing story. Would definitely assign to an undergraduate medical sociology class.
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