I’ve stopped identifying graphic novels as such on my reading list; the only place where I can do so would be under “Genre”, and a graphic novel isn’t a genre—it’s a medium. But I still ended up with two historical graphic novels on my list. Okay, technically, one of them is alternate history, but it’s historical nonetheless! I’ll have to wait until I’ve read Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics to tuck these under my belt, but I’m very much looking forward to it.
Ôoku: The Inner Chambers — Volume 1 by Fumi Yoshinaga
In Edo period Japan, a strange new disease called the Red Pox has begun to prey on the country’s men. Within eighty years of the first outbreak, the male population has fallen by seventy-five percent. Women have taken on all the roles traditionally granted to men, even that of the Shogun. The men, precious providers of life, are carefully protected. And the most beautiful of the men are sent to serve in the Shogun’s Inner Chamber…
This recommendation comes from TJ of the now defunct (and inaccessible) book blog Dreams and Speculation. Her review is no longer available, sadly. (I really miss TJ, guys.) I like alternate history that deals with gender issues, and a graphic novel focusing on a society forced to gender-flip because of a severe decrease in the male population sounds wonderful, especially since I rarely see gendercides in non-Western settings. (I think this reflects more on what I’m exposed to rather than what’s actually out there.)
Phoenix at Experiments in Reading is loving the series—it’s a projected ten volume series—although she finds the faux medieval English meant to evoke very formal language stilted. Jia at Dear Author found it slow until Yoshimune shows up, but then enjoyed it.
Ôoku: The Inner Chambers — Volume 1 was published on August 18, 2009.
Habibi by Craig Thompson
From the internationally acclaimed author of Blankets (“A triumph for the genre.”—Library Journal), a highly anticipated new graphic novel.
Sprawling across an epic landscape of deserts, harems, and modern industrial clutter, Habibitells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, by circumstance, and by the love that grows between them. We follow them as their lives unfold together and apart; as they struggle to make a place for themselves in a world (not unlike our own) fueled by fear, lust, and greed; and as they discover the extraordinary depth—and frailty—of their connection.At once contemporary and timeless, Habibi gives us a love story of astounding resonance: a parable about our relationship to the natural world, the cultural divide between the first and third worlds, the common heritage of Christianity and Islam, and, most potently, the magic of storytelling.
This is a very recent Laura Miller recommendation—I didn’t even realize it was brand new until I wrote this post. It’s being littered with praise at the moment. While I’ve got Blankets on my reading list, I’m not particularly enthused about it, so Habibi seems like a good way to introduce myself to Thompson, especially if it explores “the magic of storytelling”.
David at Largehearted Boy absolutely loved it. Chris at Stuff as Dreams are Made On was wildly impressed by its depth, its tragedy, and how it handled complex issues such as religion.
Habibi was published on September 20, 2011.
6 thoughts on “The Literary Horizon: Ôoku — The Inner Chambers Volume 1, Habibi”
I loved Blankets to pieces and I’m dying to get my hands on Habibi, but the library doesn’t have it and there’s no way I can afford it right now. Christmas list!
Really? I’ll look more fondly at Blankets from now on on my list; hopefully, Thompson will impress me.
Habibi is exceptionally beautiful — I read the first third or so of it at the bookstore before getting a bad conscience about reading it without buying it. It had a pretty explicit and upsetting rape scene in it, though, which made me nervous about buying it — especially because I read a review later that said the book just kept getting miserabler and miserabler and brutaler and brutaler. I’m not sure I’m up for that! Even with how unbelievably, impossibly beautiful the book is. Like, it’s so beautiful it’s not fair to the other graphic novels out there.
It looks gorgeous. I’ve pinned my hopes on a hypothetical library copy. Thanks for the heads up about the rape scene; that’s good to know.
I’ve got a friend who keeps trying to get me to read Ooku. I think I’d like it given his recommendation, I just haven’t had the time as of yet. Fascinating premise though.
Exactly. I love alternate history like this.