There’s not much to take away from the graphic novel ‘Algeria Is Beautiful Like America’ by Olivia Burton and Mahi Grand. The book follows Olivia’s quest to know more about the land her parents and grandparents came from – Algeria.
The title sounds like a promising look at the region, especially for those who know very little of it. But all we get are some exaggerated tales by Olivia’s grandmother, who fuels her curiosity for Algeria in the first place. Readers who aren’t familiar with its history get to learn a few new terms, like ‘Blackfoot’, a phrase for European origin folks who were born & settled in Algeria during French occupation, but moved to France after Algeria gained its independence.
Olivia’s need to explore her roots is understandable but barely intriguing. It’s not like she was uprooted from a different country, she was born and raised in France. She didn’t face any sort of discrimination or prejudice, and doesn’t seem to have had a rough childhood either. Her eventual trip to Algeria to find out more about her ‘roots’ is almost boring and uneventful. She meets lots of nice, warm people, is practically hand-held by a guide everywhere she goes in the new country. Basically, whatever happens to her is pretty forgettable. It’s the practical old man who shows her around who comes off as the strongest character in the book.
The artwork is very basic and unimpressive, it fails to capture the strongest point of the story – the so-called beauty of Algeria. We just have to trust Olivia’s word for the gorgeousness of the Alegrian landscape, because the art panels in the graphic novel sure as hell don’t capture any of its ‘beauty’.
‘If you don’t know where you’re going, take a look at where you come from”, a welcoming Algerian tells Olivia. That really sums up her quest – a young woman who doesn’t have much purpose in life, is enamored by the tales her grandmother told her of a lovely country, so she hopes traveling back will help her move forward. Which it sort of does.
It’s a 2.5/5 from me.
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