Hakim’s Odyssey: Book 1: From Syria to Turkey by Fabien Toulmé, and translated by Hannah Chute, is a straight forward and complicated read. This is not the usual refugee/displaced person story that we think we know. Usually, we are watching them on boats, trying to escape whatever the tragic events are in their homeland. This time, in the (as close as humanly possible) words of one refugee, the “before that” is told. From Syria to Turkey, Hakim’s story unfolds, and while no two stories are alike, there are similarities to what we know.
What I found interesting is not so much those events but how we see the culture of Hakim and the countries around him. Plus, the “It does not matter where you are, the Immigrant Issue Mentality (they are taking our jobs, the abuse inflicted on refugees/immigrants/displaced persons, etc.)” comes into focus. The other part I liked was the straightforwardness of the story, language, and events. It is not poetic or even written to “pull at your heartstrings” but to let you know the situation.
While the art is simple, it is not simplistic, and supports the story in the minimal colors and details. It does not “fade into the backdrop” but does not overpower the story itself. They are pleasant and comforting, even when war and destruction is shown. They soften the realities of one man and his family living and dying in Syria.
The historical background information helps to put the story into perspective, without being a history lesson or “too much” for the reader. I feel that this story humanizes the situation, allowing it to become relatable to those of us who never had (and hopefully never will) to live in this situation. I am now curious about finding the other volumes.