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Palestine, San Francisco: and the Hookah Girl

Is it a comic, or avant-garde poetry? Or satire? Or...?

What it truly is: fabulous.

The Hookah Girl And Other True Stories, Volumes 1 and 2, by Marguerite Dabaie combine modern wit, political savvy and classic illustration techniques.

In this current political climate, being an Arab is a Hazard. However, there are Common Grounds where East meets West... the back cover reads.

excerpt from "Should/Am" - click to view full-sized

It is clearly a work produced within the past several years (2007 to be exact). But though it is politically charged, the images and text produce a hefty amount of humor. "The Hookah Girl" chapter—lender to the book title—is indeed the culmination of the comedy—a variety of laughter that, for readers of both Arabic and non-Arabic descent, is largely based on the juxtaposition of modernity and tradition.

excerpt from "The Hookah Girl" - click to view full-sized

Dabaie explains her objectives on her website dedicated to the project, hookah-girl.margoyle.net:

“The Hookah Girl” is a comic that is very personal and steeped in my own experiences. While I have never lived in Israel/the Palestinian Territories, I grew up in a culture very saturated with traditional Arabic thought within the US. I want this book to address that my family are people, and while they sometimes act strangely, they aren't necessarily stranger than any other family.

My goal is to continue work on a comic that is accessible while being a bit edgy. I want to address my truths, that aren’t necessarily the truths of other Arab-Americans out there. In other words, I want to get people interested in Palestinians outside of what’s heard in the media, where they are mostly cited as “civilian casualties” or “terrorists.” There is no middle ground in media coverage of this culture in general. It may be expected of me to touch on the regional politics in my comic, the big Elephant in the Room. I’ve mulled over this, and while I am very political and have my opinions on the matter, I am ultimately opting to leave politics out of my work. Frankly, I’ve never lived in the area, so how can I talk about it? I’d rather leave that to the experts. Besides that, my aim is for my work to be non-antagonizing. I would love for people of different ethnicities and religions to read my book.

My drawing style throughout is purposefully varied and “wonky.” I wished for each subject to have its own particular flavor, and chose a drawing and storytelling style that I felt was appropriate to the story. I also largely did not want the pages to look polished. I very much value the warmness and immediacy of wavy lines, blotches of black and imperfect fonts.

Her website includes more previews of Volume 1 as well as Volume 2. There you can also purchase her books, including a third that is a cookbook of her grandmother's recipes. (Hookah Girl @ $6, Teta's Cookbook @ $3 not including shipping)

[images © Marguerite Dabaie]

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