Spring Rain: A Graphic Memoir of Love, Madness, and Revolutions by Andy Warner is an evocative story about one man’s experience battling mental illness and uncertainty whilst living in the middle of the 2005 Cedar Revolution in Beirut, Lebanon. Pulling from both personal memory and historic fact, Warner pieces together the everyday and the revolutionary in a thorough and thought-provoking memoir.
Andy Warner traveled to Beirut to study literature in 2005. He broke up with his girlfriend and was completely miserable, despite living in a city that has rebuilt itself after years of upset and war and is a glowing source of potential in the Middle East. He befriended a small group of mainly LGBTQ+ expats and students who showed him around the city and took him to all the trendy spots. They were having a great time smoking, drinking, and imbibing in a variety of illicit substances, but slowly shards of unrest and unhappiness in the city began to break. Meanwhile, Andy himself is going through the beginnings of a mental breakdown. Protests continue, the city divides, and Andy spirals deeper and deeper into his own mind.
Warner’s storytelling is powerful. He brings to light the physicality of mental illness by including his own experiences and feelings. He describes his breakdown as it felt to him and how his body and mind reacted to it. His ability to illustrate thoughts and feelings that are already abstract is excellent. The illustrations are clear and concise with just enough reality imbued within to remind the reader that these are real events with real historical figures. The use of illustrated maps is also helpful during the explanation of the Syrian Civil War and the events that happened prior to Andy’s arrival in the city. Overall, Warner’s use of real-life experience in regards to his own experiences with the revolution and mental illness paired with his simple yet eye-catching illustrations makes this graphic novel particularly powerful.
Spring Rain: A Graphic Memoir of Love, Madness, and Revolutions is appropriate for readers 16+ due to explicit drug use and sexual situations. Those interested in the history of the Arab Spring in particular will find this an interesting and informative read as it describes events as they were to those on the ground and living in the city of Beirut. It is enjoyable to readers of Erin William’s Commute: An Illustrated Memoir of Female Shame and Riad Sattouf’s The Arab of the Future: A Graphic Memoir.
Spring Rain: A Graphic Memoir of Love, Madness, and Revolutions By Andy Warner ISBN: 9781250165978 St. Martin’s Press, 2020
Browse for more like this title NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Adult (18+) Character Traits: Gay, Bisexual, Queer
The trouble with reviewing a great graphic novel is that reviewing it can be as simple as recounting what happens and how, followed by, “and all of it is done really well.” Brazilian twin brothers Fabio Moon and Gabriel Bá adapt Brazilian author Milton Hatoum’s novel Dois Irmaos (published as The Brothers in English) into Two Brothers, a tale of fictional twin brothers who follow drastically different life paths and the families swept up in their wake. Two Brothers is also a tale of mid-1900s Brazil and Lebanon, youth and age, optimism and resignation.
Moon and Bá make a number of interesting artistic decisions for this book, including the black and white color scheme and how it reflects the diverse perspectives of the narrative. When the defining dramatic split between the twins Omar and Yaqub occurs, in which Omar scars Yaqub’s face with a bottle, Yaqub’s blood is shown as white on himself and the bottle, but black on Omar and the floor. There is a visual suggestion that Yaqub’s childhood has been forever corrupted by this event, and his swift maturity into adulthood as a shy engineer supports this reading. Omar, who lazes about and acts on instinct, gets kicked out of school for assaulting his math teacher and stays close to his mother. Both twins have unrestrained libidos, following in their father’s footsteps, who gets his own flashback chapter (circa 1914) filling in some of the family history of how the twins’ parents met. There are a number of one-panel sex scenes, some topless, and they fit the adult narrative in a way that is not gratuitous. Between the twins’ childhoods, adulthoods, and their parents’ backstory, there are several eras reflecting each other decades apart.
Their family calls Manaus, Brazil home, though their roots extend to Lebanon. The narrator’s identity, as well as several other developments in all their lives, are gradually fed to the reader in deliberately paced chapters that take full advantage of the comics page. Moon and Bá are adept at establishing a street corner, parade, harbor, dance party, mansion, and anyplace else subject to the main family’s high drama. Black and white space are frequently used to depict gulfs between characters, closely guarded secrets, and spread out settings. Within these spaces are the alternately grizzled, naive, horny, suspicious, jealous, and tired faces of the cast, each depending on where the plot has flash-forwarded or flash-backed.
Two Brothers is a literary adaptation par excellence, and much of its richness is beneath the surface. Readers with insight and perhaps the time for a second reading will pick up on reflections within reflections, as much of the book’s meaning goes unsaid. This is not only a mature book in terms of blood and sex, though there are scenes of each, but a book with mature demands to make of the reader. Moon and Bá, channeling the original novel’s author Hatoum, traverse eras, cultures, identities, and generations, and together create a densely layered story that reaches far higher than any individual scene or single character’s emotion. This is a tapestry across time, and graphic novel collections should display it with pride and let patrons know “all of it is done really well.”
Two Brothers by Fabio Moon, Gabriel Bá ISBN: 9781616558567 Dark Horse, 2015