How to Understand Israel in Sixty Days or Less, Chapter 1: Orientation
By Sarah Glidden
We are having the same thought: this multi-part mini has an inordinately long title.
Forgive it though, because Sarah Glidden’s book How to Understand Israel in Sixty Days or Less, Chapter 1: Orientation (hereafter called Chapter 1) was perhaps the most impressive debut mini at SPX in 2007. In fact, I hope it’s one you’ve already heard about.
As an American-born Jew, Glidden is one of many Jewish people ages 18-26 who are entitled to a birthright trip to Israel. Through Taglit-Birthright Israel, Jews living outside Israel are brought in on donated funds to learn about the Holy Land. It’s an effort to strengthen the Jewish identity of Jews living worldwide and the program has been extremely successful since it began in 2000.
Yes, it’s a great program, but it’s not taken without risk. Israel has sadly been in a state of unrest throughout much of its history and in Chapter 1, Glidden’s autobigraphical travelogue, she is even shocked to learn that the an armed guard is required to accompany the travelers as they go. So far, he hasn’t needed to use his gun.
Chapter 1 is an exploration of Glidden’s impressions of Israel, but it also offers some educated commentary on the country’s political and personal struggles. It’s obvious I really needed some education on the subject of Israel since I didn’t recognize immediately what country is depicted on the cover. My knowledge of geography and perception of verbal cues notwithstanding, I’m one of the “goys” who really doesn’t know jack about Judaism or Mideast history. I’m confident this comic won’t go above the head of many non-Jews or those clueless in current affairs.
Glidden’s perspective helps to illuminate the Israeli-Palestine conflict and generate interest on the topic, but I’m sure you’ll find better information about the subject in a good history text. Glidden doesn’t deny this, she even offers a list of recommended titles through her comic, but as a travelogue her book tries to be even and offer a solid commentary. She really wants to share what she’s learned about her heritage and the situation between Israel and Palestine, but as yet she’s offered no conclusion, so I look forward to future chapters.
Glidden makes it clear that she needs to see Israel to understand it. Up to this point she’s lived her young life having rarely identified with her own Jewishness and her interest in the Israeli-Palestine conflict has been largely academic. Her attitude towards others before boarding the plane tells plenty about her initial feelings on Israel, which are too unclear to be properly expressed by any other means. Before leaving New York, she and a friend are gossiping about another tour group that she calls too young, then she laughs a Hasidic Jew for looking extremely Jewish. This all helps to illustrate that as a young Jewish person trying to understand a young Jewish nation, she’s got a long way to go before making a connection.
Glidden has a nice, sloppy line that gives her drawings a kind of beautiful mobility. People’s hands are occasionally, pleasantly, enormous for no reason. She also draws busy backgrounds filled with abstract yet identifiable shapes that offer a nice sense of perspective. The comic is strictly black and white with no hatching or pattern-making and those drawings fall into an almost regimental grid pattern of rectangular boxes. The expressiveness of her line is what helps break up the page in absence of structural and tonal deviation.
A cream-colored card stock was used to print the cover and the interior pages are white. There’s not a lot of attention to production, but that’s understandable coming from someone who is often more preoccupied with publishing on the web, where you can still find traces of Chapter 1 before it went into print.
Chapter 1 is $3 and is available for purchase through Glidden’s website.