Lissa: A Story about Medical Promise, Friendship, and Revolution by Sherine HamdyAs young girls in Cairo, Anna and Layla strike up an unlikely friendship that crosses class, cultural, and religious divides. Years later, Anna learns that she may carry the hereditary cancer gene responsible for her mothers death. Meanwhile, Laylas family is faced with a difficult decision about kidney transplantation. Their friendship is put to the test when these medical crises reveal stark differences in their perspectives...until revolutionary unrest in Egypt changes their lives forever.
The first book in a new series, Lissa brings anthropological research to life in comic form, combining scholarly insights and accessible, visually-rich storytelling to foster greater understanding of global politics, inequalities, and solidarity.
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Lissa: A Story about Medical Promise, Friendship, and Revolution
Lissa is the first book in a new series from University of Toronto Press with the punningly pleasant title of ethnoGRAPHIC: a collection of ethnographies written in the form of graphic novels. Lissa is a fictional story based on hours of interviews, extensive research, surveys and studies by the authors Sherine Hamby and Coleman Nye. The principal characters are composites, allowing the authors to tell real stories without compromising identities or medical histories, but many of the secondary and background characters are real individuals; this is particularly true of the parts of the book set in Egypt. Lissa is a graphic novel about the friendship between two teenage girls: Anna and Layla. Anna is a white American with a love of photography, living with her family in Egypt and attending an American International school at which her mother teaches, and her father works for an oil firm.
Full disclosure: I had already decided to teach this book before I volunteered to review it for Anthropologica in response to a call for reviewers. Lissa is, as the title says, a story about medical promise, friendship and revolution, but more importantly, it is a story told in graphic narrative comic book form. I thought the graphic format would appeal to students in our second-year core ethnography course, the goal of which is to investigate the principles, processes and products of doing ethnography, thereby — we hope — converting students intrigued by our introductory courses into committed anthropologists. Layla joins the medics giving first aid to wounded protesters near Tahrir Square, while Anna joins efforts to identify missing persons injured, killed, or disappeared activists. The stories thus woven together, however, need unpicking again anthropologically.
Sherine Hamdy and Coleman Nye (writers), Sarula Bao and Caroline Brewer (art ), Marc Parenteau (lettering), Lissa: A Story About Medical.
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Written by Sherine Hamdy and Coleman Nye. For several years many anthropologists have engaged in questions about the possibilities of a graphic anthropology. Lissa: A Story about Medical Promise, Friendship, and Revolution is an innovative demonstration of the possibilities a graphic anthropology. Creating a graphic narrative is not a one-to-one translation of ethnographic fieldnotes into a drawing and dialogue on a page, but an intensely collaborative process that demands a different method for seeing and communicating relationships in the field. Lissa is a graphic narrative, a fictional story based in years of ethnographic fieldwork, a book about how to read and make comics, how to collaborate on such endeavors, and how to teach graphic narrative.
For several years I taught course based largely on graphic novels at Stanford — twice in a medical anthropology graduate seminar and once for undergraduates at the Stanford school in Paris we took a field-trip to the famous international festival for bande dessinee in Angouleme. As teaching devices, graphic novels provide an open-endedness and accessibility that is more difficult to find in ethnographic articles. The reliance of the storyline on character development, rather than an overall argument, requires an entirely different analytic style than the traditional article, and one with welcome challenges to ethnographic analysis and elucidation. As an aspect of the histories of graphic representation they draw on and develop, graphic novels also add opportunities for anthropologists to teach broadly on multi-valent story-telling histories, including political commentary and the rise of print media, as well as specific characters such as the Yellow Kid and Superwoman. Further, graphic novels provide models for students to try their own hand at new kinds of work. Lissa presents ethnographers with a bold new direction well worth broad consideration.