Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Weekly Water Inspiration: Habibi by Craig Thompson

In honor of this book's official release this week, I chose Habibi by Craig Thompson as the topic for my Weekly Water Inspiration post. At nearly 700 pages, Habibi is a fairy tale with its roots in reality-- a 1,001 Nights-inspired journey through a culturally Islamic fictitious landscape in which two escaped child slaves navigate their way through barren deserts and cluttered cityscapes. Throughout the narrative, Dodola (named for a rain goddess) and Zam (named for the stream that saved Ishmael and his mother from dying of thirst) are influenced by water, or a lack thereof. Their lives together in the desert region almost entirely revolve around finding water, which Zam is responsible for, and he gets into the practice of trading water for food in nearby villages and with traveling caravans-- proof that water is a valuable commodity. The big city in this fictitious land has built a dam, which is a significant source of prosperity, but it also has the same issues with water that many major developing cities do, and capitalizes on people's lack of water by bottling it in a plant (kind of the same thing we do.) And at one point in the story, Dodola uses water to bargain for her freedom-- in this sense, it is the most valuable thing in the world.

I was lucky enough to be able to see Craig Thompson speak twice this past weekend at events for the Brooklyn Book Festival-- first at an independent bookstore in Greenpoint, and the next day at a panel discussion at the festival's Borough Hall location. In both instances, he referenced water and modern-day water crisis issues as a main theme throughout the story. At the independent bookstore event, he went into more detail about the significance of water in this and his other works. Here are some quotes from his talk:

[Please bear in mind that I am paraphrasing from notes and quotes I jotted down that night.]

"All my stories have a water theme. Chunky Rice was the ocean, Blankets was snow... it just seemed natural that a larger water crisis would be the next thing."

"My father was a plumber-- he instilled in us that water is a very precious resource..."

"Maybe in America it is easier to live in denial about the water crisis..."

"Drought is a huge thing: not only ecological drought, but emotional, sexual, and creative drought as well."

On a personal note, Craig Thompson is one of my graphic novel heroes and it was amazing to be able to see him and also to meet him during the book signing portion of Saturday night's event. He is wonderfully talented, and I would highly recommend Habibi. Check out his other books, too: Goodbye, Chunky Rice, Blankets and Carnet de Voyage (Blankets is my favorite.)

To learn more about Craig Thompson, his process (all hand-drawn, no Photoshopping!), and his books, visit:

I hope this helps you guys get some inspiration, and that you're experiencing the opposite of a creative drought.

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