Leila Abdelrazaq was making comics for her blog when an editor from the publisher Just World Books approached her with the idea of drawing an entire graphic novel. The recent graduate of DePaul University, where she was active in Students for Justice in Palestine, jumped at the idea. Her first full-length comic is Baddawi, about a Palestinian refugee boy growing up in the Lebanese refugee camp which gives its name to the novel.
This one boy is Leila’s father, but, as she writes in the preface, “It is about five million people, born into a life of exile and persecution, indefinitely suspended in statelessness.”
“This story is about Handala,” late Palestinian cartoonist Naji al-Ali’s symbolic refugee child drawn with his back to a world that had abandoned the Palestinians, and the inspiration for Baddawi‘s cover.
Baddawi is both a heartening tale and a symbol of resistance. For as Leila writes, preserving the past is for Palestinians an act of resistance; an act against the Israeli expectation that the 1948 expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians would be forgotten by History as Palestinians were absorbed in other countries, the old passing away, and the young losing attachment to the homeland: “This book is a testament to the fact that we have not forgotten.”
Palestine Studies TV, a project of the Institute for Palestine Studies, was pleased to have recently sat down with Leila as we discussed Baddawi.