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Joe & Azat Paperback – November 1, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 95 pages
  • Publisher: NBM Publishing; Original edition (November 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1561635707
  • ISBN-13: 978-1561635702
  • Product Dimensions: 0.3 x 5.9 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,156,295 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Culling material from his days as a Peace Corps worker in Turkmenistan, Lonergan follows his graphic novel, Flower & Fade, with this charming and engrossing study of a friendship that transcends cultural borders. American Joe works as a teacher in post-Soviet Turkmenistan and acts as our fish-out-of-water everyman, confronted with customs and ways of thought that seem frustratingly pointless. Meanwhile, his native Turkmen friend Azat constantly finds his idealized impression of Americans and their society brought crashing to earth by Joe's reality checks. Joe (and the reader) are taken in by Azat's eternally sunny personality and ambitions that exceed his dreamer's reality, taking us from one flight of entrepreneurial or romantic fancy to another while letting us get to know Azat's highly critical mother and his bitter, alcoholic brother. Less of a straightforward narrative than a study of two very different men and the situations they find themselves in, this is a simply illustrated charmer that grips readers from its opening pages and remains on the mind well after it has been read and absorbed. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up–This story about an American Peace Corps volunteer who befriends a man in Turkmenistan is told from the point of view of Joe, a stranger in a strange land. His closest companion becomes Azat, an irrepressible dreamer who believes in one doomed project after another. This story mixes comic and tragic elements to paint an empathetic portrait of a group of people who want the American Dream, even if they don't exactly understand what it is or how it works. Lonergan's black-and-white images are rendered in a minimalist style, telling this story by focusing on a series of smiling and troubled faces. Joe and Azat is based at least in part on the author's Peace Corps experiences, but readers don't see what kinds of things American volunteers did in Turkmenistan. In this book, Joe seems to spend most of his time going to parties and weddings and answering countless questions about what America is like. Azat is the main focus of this book, a tragic figure who continues to believe that his life is going to get better. But an even bigger tragedy seems to be how the American Dream tantalizes the people of this former Soviet republic, promising them freedoms and powers that are still out of reach. This book will probably be appreciated by older teens and adults who are ready for a story about how reality is often a mixed blessing and that only a few impossible dreams really come true.–Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Jesse Lonergan is a cartoonist living in Somerville, Massachusetts. He likes coffee, Kraftwerk, the Clash, and cardigans.

Customer Reviews

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By K. S Weaver on October 15, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Joe & Azat has stunned the large community of returned Peace Corps Volunteers from Turkmenistan, most of whom have never met Jesse, with its accurate and empathetic portrayal of life there. Jesse breathes vitality into his Turkmen characters, for each of whom he provides mini-portraits in simple, almost minimal relief. The frames are drawn beautifully. For anybody who is interested in what life is actually like in Turkmenistan, this book will give you a better idea than any book or academic article you could get your hands on. It also stands alone as a story, a narrative about the clash of tradition and modernity, young and old, and the choices that we make and are made for us.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Andrew C Wheeler VINE VOICE on December 5, 2009
Format: Paperback
Lonergan spent time in the Peace Corps in Turkmenistan; the "Joe" of this graphic novel is a young man in the Peace Corps in Turkmenistan. (And "Azat" is his driver/guide/best friend there, the usual super-energetic, vaguely entrepreneurial young man in backward or developing countries, always on the hunt for the next big thing, cheerfully forward-looking, and hugely outgoing.) But Joe and Azat is not autobiographical; it's only based loosely on Lonergan's own experiences.

That means, I suppose, that life didn't neatly turn itself into a story for Lonergan during his time in Turkmenistan, but, then, it never does. The story here is episodic and without much overall shape; the episodes are individually interesting, but they tend to turn into "look at these colorful people, so unlike bland American Joe! My, aren't people in the less-known parts of the world so much more ethnic than we are!" in the aggregate.

Lonergan does have a great eye for black; he has huge areas of inky black throughout Joe and Azat. His faces are also very expressive; his people really come to life on the page. (His body language is equally good; the cover is a good example of that.)

Joe and Azat is very enjoyable, but it's a pretty standard me-and-my-wacky-ethnic-friend comedy (crossed with here-I-am-in-this-weird-foreign-country). I have to think that Lonergan could have put together a stronger piece if he'd kept closer to his own actual experiences; I doubt there was a "real" Azat -- and the people that he put together to make Azat would probably have been more interesting in their separate complexities.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Abraham on November 6, 2009
Format: Paperback
Joe And Azat by Jesse Lonergan is an unusually touching and funny graphic novel based on the author's own experiences spent in the Peace Corps in Turkmenistan. Lonergan fits a lot of his terrific story into approximately 100 pages, and the artwork is great - a zen balance of hilarity and sadness.

I agree with the previous reviewer. This book is more informative than a Lonely Planet guide book. It is a must read not only for anyone thinking of joining the Peace Corps, but for anyone interested in travel in any foreign land - even if only from the comfort of their own living room.
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By persona non grata on April 23, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Since I have also lived in Turkmenistan, I can relate to the author's story and point of view. It is a quick, interesting read, and may give an outsider some perspective on what it is like to live in some former Soviet, or Central Asian countries. I would note that there is a distinction between living in larger capital cities, where things may appear quite "normal" to the average visitor, and the more rural areas, like the author's town, where things start to get interesting.
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By Paula on August 30, 2011
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This is a great comic of Turkmenistan. As a RPCV myself, the author really captured some of the funnies that are only understandable if you have been there. Fun, easy read.
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