Review by Matthew Nielsen
How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less is an autobiographical graphic novel by Sarah Glidden that explores how she, an American with Jewish heritage, went on a birthright trip to Israel in March, 2007. The birthright trip is a charity-funded service that allows any Jewish person from anywhere in the world to receive a free trip to Israel, possibly in hopes that they may choose to move there.
During the birthright tour, Glidden is exposed to much of Israel’s history and many different perspectives about its political situation, as well as the everyday life of a lot of Israelis. Throughout the book Glidden weighs-in various differing points of views, some that challenge her preconceptions and some that confirm. It is fascinating how the various histories, ideologies, and life stories are explored through this journey. Glidden is able to describe everything from her deep political opinions to her feelings of sometimes alienation and sometimes assimilation, and lots of other stuff in between.
A lot of Glidden’s thoughts are told not just through captions and text, but also through more metaphorical imagery. This blurs the lines of reality, and connects us even more to Glidden’s personal journey.
The comic is done in both ink and watercolour. The lighting and colours are always spot on, and background objects and buildings have everything in the right place, nothing over-simplified. The people and characters are a tad more stylized, though without the lifeless uniformity. I like it; the more cartoony depiction of the people adds a sense of honesty and life.
So if you’d like to see Israel through the eyes of a questioning Jewish-American, then this book might be for you. There are several other books about the region and the situation, including Joe Sacco’s Palestine, and it’s always worth getting a lot of people’s experiences and points of views about things. I’m glad to have travelled to Israel once again through this writer’s journey.