I recently read Sarah Glidden’s nonfiction comic, Rolling Blackouts, published by Drawn & Quarterly in 2016, and it is one my favorite books this year. Glidden travelled through Turkey, Iraq, and Syria in 2011 along with two friends, reporters who had founded a journalism non-profit, and a Marine Iraqi War Veteran. Glidden documented their experience in beautiful watercolors and inked cartoon panels. The topics that Rolling Blackouts explores covers everything from the middle east refugee crisis, the rebuilding or lack of rebuilding in middle eastern cities, the difficulties immigrants and refugees have experienced from their displacement, as well as how journalism and reporting fits in with all of it. Glidden’s traveling companions and journalists are as much her subjects as the Iraqi refugees they meet in their travels. What I thought was unique about Rolling Blackouts was the documentation of the journalist experience— what kind of story her companions were hoping to find, what kind of experience they had, and how that informed their perspective and either the stories they told or hoped to tell.
In a time when journalistic integrity is constantly attacked and citizens are having difficulty distinguishing between fake news and real news, or even recognizing bias in the news they read, it’s an important topic to investigate— who’s telling the story, how are they getting their information, is there a different perspective? are views represented from differing sides, are there different sides to tell? So many of these ideas are explored by the reporters that Glidden travels with.
Glidden manages to capture so much in Rolling Blackouts. The quality of life or lack there of, the daily habits and experiences they have. The reader becomes a fly on the wall in the rooms where Sarah’s companions interview people about their experiences and begin to record and create a narrative about Iraqi refugees and the displacement the war has caused and the repercussions. Whether Glidden recorded conversations and interviews with UN employees, volunteers, refugees, or their taxi drivers, each bit of information adds to a more complete and diverse perspective. The people interviewed have had their lives forever altered, and it’s something that Americans need to read. These stories are also a part of the American war on terror. These are part of the repercussions to distant wars that we’ve been fighting for so long.