Graphic Novel Review: Yasmeen by Saif A. Ahmed and Fabiana Mascolo

Yasmeen by Saif A. Ahmed (creator, writer) and Fabiana Mascolo (artist). Scout Comics, 2021. 9781949514698.

This graphic novel opens with a few pages set south of Mosul, Iraq, where two young women are fleeing across the desert. Yasmeen was one of them and survived that journey and arrives in Iowa, in 2016, where she’s reunited with her family. Then there’s a flashback to June of 2014 where hear family was in the process of purchasing their dream home in Mosul. The book is the story of what happened to Yasmeen after ISIS forced her Shiite family to flee Mosul without her, of how she was to be the bride of an ISIS fighter before being forced into sexual slavery (from which she was escaping in the opening pages). It shows how she survived and it’s also about her trying to make a new home in the U.S., of finding new friends and trying to reconnect with her family. (Her parents and brother really seem to have no idea what happened to her, and her father especially seems to want to avoid the topic.)

This was a tough read but I’m really glad I picked it up. There is quite a bit of violence but it’s less graphic than most R-rated films. There’s also trouble when Yasmeen helps a new friend, deals with a boy who calls her an ISIS bitch at school, and tells everyone the truth about what she went through.

Worth noting: the cover, with its pale blue “cloud” of memories above Yasmeen’s head, made me suspect that she had superpowers of some kind. I’m glad that was wrong. I hope, if you add this to your library, you have some way to indicate (especially to readers like me who don’t like to read the back of a book first) that it’s a realistic story, whether by where it’s shelved or with a genre label of some kind.


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