Olivia had always heard stories about Algeria from her maternal grandmother, who had emigrated to France after the Algerian War of Independence. Years after her grandmother’s death, Olivia decides to travel to Algeria and experience the country for herself; she arrives alone, with only a single phone number in her pocket of an Algerian, Djaffar, who will act as her guide. Olivia’s quest to understand her origins will bring her to face questions about heritage, history, shame, friendship, nostalgia, and memory.
Algeria is Beautiful Like America is part travelogue, part memoir, and part history lesson as writer Olivia Burton recounts her time traveling to Algeria and finding out more about her family’s history. With art by Mahi Grand, the graphic novel is a fascinating entry into the genre of personal comics that have been some of the best releases of modern times.
What I particularly enjoyed of this release is that history lesson. I know next to nothing about Algeria and honestly would probably fail at pointing it out on a map. I know little of their history and past and this read helped catch me up. What’s even more interesting is that Burton lays it out warts and all. There’s outright Islamophobia presented. There’s colonialism. There’s sexism. This isn’t some story that is happy and free. She explores the dirt of it all. And she also finds the wonder too. We get Burton’s feelings about the country and what she’s experiencing without much filter. And through her excitement, nervousness, and intrigue, we get to experience that ourselves in a way.
The art by Mahi Grand is wonderful. It feels like Grand does a good job of recreating Burton’s experiences and I got an impression some of the work is done off of the photos that Burton took on her trip. There’s an interesting style to it all which adds to the “indie” nature of it but at the same time is on the more mainstream end of things. The characters too have details which immediately adds to Burton’s journey and helps us learn as we read.
I came to this on the title alone and walked away more than pleased in what is a surprising read that was off my radar. If you’re into this sort of genre than this is a graphic novel that’s a must get.
Story: Olivia Burton Art: Mahi Grand
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy
Lion Forge provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review