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Graphic Novel Review: Freedom Hospital: A Syrian Story by Hamid Sulaiman

Title: Freedom Hospital: A Syrian Story

Author: Hamid Sulaiman

Year Published: 2017

Category: Adult fiction (graphic novel)
Pages: 288
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2021 Google Reading map) Syria and Turkey

Summary (from Amazon): It is spring 2012 and 40,000 people have died since the start of the Syrian Arab Spring. In the wake of this, Yasmine has set up a clandestine hospital in the north of the country. Her town is controlled by Assad's brutal regime, but is relatively stable. However, as the months pass, the situation becomes increasingly complex and violent. Told in stark, beautiful black-and-white imagery, Freedom Hospital illuminates a complicated situation with gut-wrenching detail and very dark humor.

The story of Syria is one of the most devastating narratives of our age and Freedom Hospital is an important and timely book from a new international talent.

  I received this book from my daughter for my birthday earlier this week. She is so good at choosing books for me! I hoped this graphic novel, based on reality but fictionalized, would build on my knowledge of the Syrian conflict that I have learned from the books and documentary that I wrote about in this post on Syria. There weren't any great new revelations, but it did a good job of explaining the difference between Sunni and Shiite and the various groups (rebels, Syrian army, and Al Qaeda) that are fighting in Syria.

The black and white illustrations in this graphic novel are bold and effective, really giving the reader a sense of the seriousness and darkness that is the situation in northern Syria. I liked that there is a mixture of drawings and real images that have been transformed to look like drawings, though sometimes that effect made it difficult to see the details.

I also think the story was effective by following a bunch of characters, all with the hospital in common, who meet with different fates. There is a character list at the beginning, which helps as well.

I liked this graphic novel, but didn't love it (hence the 4, not a 5) and I don't know if that's because I've read so much about Syria or because I didn't get completely pulled into this story.

Challenges for which this counts:
  • Diversity--Arab author and characters
  • Historical fiction

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