Visual Hakawatis: Drawing Resistance in Leila Abdelrazaq's Baddawi and Malaka Gharib's I Was Their American Dream
In this paper, I explore how Leila Abdelrazaq’s Baddawi (2015) and Malaka Ghraib’s I Was Their American Dream (2019) work to forge a new space for the graphic novel in Arab American self-representation in twenty-first-century media, becoming emblematic of what I call ‘visual hakawatis.’ Visual hakawatis, I argue, use individualized acts of storytelling to transform fragments of their histories and memories into hybridizations of art and written word that reflect their increasingly hybridized existences, while interconnecting their personal, cultural, and historical experiences. In these convergences, stories of resistance and refusal emerge, intervening in notions of history- and nation-making, national belonging and national memory, resisting the marginalization or erasure of multiplicities of Arab American histories and identities within and beyond a U.S. landscape. Some key questions informing my analysis include: How do Abdelrazaq’s and Gharib’s graphic novels reconceptualize historical as well as artistic conventions of storytelling in underscoring radical forms of witnessing, memory, and resistance to U.S. hegemonic discourses and understandings of Arab Americans? In what ways does the visual medium of the graphic novel help Abdelrazaq and Gharib forge memories of and bear witness to inherited pasts and cultures, as well as underscore the complexity of Arab American positionalities and multiplicities today?
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