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Jerusalem: A Family Portrait Hardcover – April 16, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Chronicling the birth of a country so long torn by strife, Jerusalem is, fittingly, a war story. Taking place in the mid- to late 1940s, as Israel struggled to establish itself as a Jewish nation, it is about both the war against British occupiers and Palestinian residents and the story of a family at war with itself. The Halaby family—angry, stubborn, fractious, but ultimately fiercely committed—proves effective both as metaphor for the strife and as a way to put a human face on a much larger piece of history, with individual characters able to illicit both livid frustration and deep sympathy. In a visually dazzling move, Bertozzi (Louis and Clark, 2011) embraces artistic styles with conceptual connections to the material. His work shares gray tones and idiosyncratically humanistic character lines with Will Eisner’s—a pioneer of Jewish realism in comics—and the battle scenes, of which there are many, are deftly suspenseful but also highlight the tragic cost of warfare, a balance perfected by EC’s classic Two-Fisted Tales. Though it does include a two-page primer on the political history of the region, this is most powerful for investing a massive and complex issue with real human emotion. --Jesse Karp

Review

Those who like the graphic novel format and have an interest in people holding true to their beliefs or have experienced living in a situation filled with mayhem and disorder, may find this book helpful. (VOYA)

This is most powerful for investing a massive and complex issue with real human emotion. (Booklist, starred review)

A hefty tableau of beautifully gnashed teeth. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Product Details

  • Series: Jerusalem
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: First Second (April 16, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596435755
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596435759
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #535,255 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia Hudson on May 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Jerusalem was often a time of chaos and conflict during the years the state of Israel was being established in the 1940s. Communists, Zionists, Jews, Arabs, and British soldiers were mixed into a boiling pot that pitted brothers against brothers and race against race.

Graphic novelists Boaz Yakin and Nick Bertozzi have sought to capture those unsettling times through the lens of one family: the Hallabys. In their novel, Jerusalem: A Family Portrait, they introduce readers to brothers Izak and Yakov, the patriarchs, estranged from each other over past differences. Izak and Yakov's children are caught up in their personal war, as well as in the larger conflict that swirls around them.

Izak's adult sons are a reflection of the myriad forces at work. Two of them fought with the British army in Europe during World War II. One would like to see Israel become Communist and cooperates with Arabs who feel the same, another fights with Jewish rebels. Everyone suffers privation and shortages during the most difficult times.

Each family member has a different perspective, and through their eyes the larger tale unfolds. While this is fairly recent history, it also seems to be not very well known or understood. The authors provide background in an introduction that provides a map of the British Mandate Palestine in 1945, a brief history of the city of Jerusalem beginning with the Ottoman takeover in 1517 until 1939, and a personal history of the Hallaby family. The stories are based on the experiences of Yakin's own family, who lived in Palestine during this time.

As with any good graphic novel, the images tell so much of the tale, and such is the case in Jerusalem. The fighting, confusion, suffering, and turmoil leap off the pages, as do small moments of joy and triumph that sometimes shine through. I recommend it for anyone who loves history.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Andy Shuping on April 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The year is 1940. The place is Jerusalem. And there is war all around. Not only is World War II continuing and taking away the men and boys of Israel to fight Hitler's armies, but Jews and Arabs are fighting once more within Jerusalem. This story follows three generations of the same family, 15 members in total, from 1940-1948, through war, through jail, through faith, and through death. This is a story that will not let you go.

This has been one of the most difficult books for me to review, not only because of the content (which at times draws close to some buried family secrets) but also because of the way the story is told. Boaz is a filmmaker at heart and it shows in how he writes and plots his stories as he moves from one person to the next and then back again to pick up the characters tale. It's a powerful and interesting way to create a story, but at the same time there were times I got lost and needed a scorecard to keep up with the characters (of which thankfully there was one in the front.) It took me two read throughs to see the entire story, which is probably more my reading style than that of Boaz's writing. That aside though, this is a powerful story and is one that you'll want to read again and again to see what you might have missed. Although Boaz fictionalized parts of the story, much of it still has the feel of a biography which makes it even more interesting to read.

Nick's black and white illustrations make it feel like we're watching one of those old classic black and white films and gives the film a sense of heaviness, of reality that grounds the story and helps keep it real. We watch as the characters grow and change during this 8 year time period and come to life.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Sojourner on April 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is amazing for its sophistication given that it is a graphic novel. The story brings to life the human component of the formative years of pee-independence Israel. It is brutally honest. One laughs and one is brought almost to tears from the stories within the stories.
A few details may be wrong, but they are minor. In a Halabi synagogue the siphrey Torah would be in a wooden case, and the pronunciation for the benediction over wine would be "gephen" and not "gaphen."
I will be sharing this book with friends and will give it as gifts.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Laura Booksnob on February 21, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Jerusalem; A Family Portrait by Boaz Yakin and Nick Bertozzi

Three generations of the Halaby family live in a tiny, cramped apartment in Jerusalem. It is 1945 and World War II is ending. Many Jewish people are emigrating to Israel. The Halaby's have 4 sons and 1 daughter. One of the Halaby sons is off fighting in Italy. Another is a fighting for Israel Independence, while another son borders on being a terrorist and inciting violence in the city. The youngest son is free to roam and grows up amidst this turbulent era of Independence.

Yakim and Bertozzi have written a stunning historical graphic novel that teaches the reader about the history of Israel from 1945 to 1948 from a familial point of view. So many of us read about the Holocaust and think the story ends there but it doesn't. Jerusalem; A Family Portrait takes you to a place where people leave the atrocities of WWII and go to Israel to fight another war for a Jewish homeland.

The graphic artwork is done in black and white, reflecting the horrors of war. There is a cast of characters and a family tree which is nice to refer back to when you get confused ( I sometimes confused the characters). There is also a background history of Jerusalem and the events leading up to this story. A map of the British Mandate of 1945 is also enclosed.

Jerusalem; A Family Portrait has left a lasting imprint on me. The characters (based on the authors family stories) are so compelling and the ending is so gripping that I don't think I will ever forget this story.
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