Thursday, June 17, 2010

Review: Burma Chronicles

Author: Guy Delisle
Format:  208 pgs
Subject: Life in Burma (Myanmar)
Setting: Myanmar
Genre:  Graphic Novel
Source: Public Library
Challenge: Support your Local Library

My first graphic novel…and I was impressed.Through the medium of black and white cartoons, the author tells the story of his family’s sojourn in the country of Myanmar (we used to call it Burma) in Southeast Asia. His French wife is a member of the Medecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and they take their young son on a journey throughout the country.

With limited electricity (often only 2 hours a day), tightly controlled access to many areas, particularly anywhere close to the house where Nobel Prize winning peace activist Aung San Suu Kyi lives, DeLisle tries to continue his work as an illustrator- writer while searching for adequate housing, learning to navigate the baby stroller among the motorcycles, and trying to make sense of a culture that is very different from his native Canada. There are short vignettes of visits to local markets and restaurants, a sojourn in a Buddhist facility to learn to mediate, starting up classes in illustrations for locals. A wonderful story of foreigners trying to fit it, and the struggles they have.

Having lived overseas for several years, I could definitely relate to some of his quandaries, and found myself laughing out loud at some of them. For instance, men are not normally accepted as stroller pushing care-givers. DeLisle’s adventures in play-groups are quite funny. I remember well the stares, followed by hisses, my husband used to get when he would take our son (then about 8 mos old) out for a stroll to the local Japanese market.

While not a novel in the fictional sense of the word, the graphic format is stunning. I’m not sure I could read consistently only in this format, but the simple black and white illustrations bring the starkness of the life in Myanmar into startlingly clear view. I have glanced at other graphic publications but found them confusing, blaring, and assaulting to my senses. This does none of that, and is a surprisingly easy to read story of what is currently happening in that that area of the world.

I can certainly see how social studies teachers could make great use of a format like this to encourage young readers to get their world studies very easily completed.


  1. I have never read a graphic novel...I feel so 'out of it'. lol

  2. well - if you've read comic book, you're close. Also, although they call it a 'graphic novel' it wasn't a novel at had a 741 dewey class 0 it's non-fiction, so what should we call it. A graphic travelogue?


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