by Olivia Burton, illustrated by Mahi Grand, translated by Edward Gauvin, editing, localization, and layout by Mike Kennedy. Lion Forge, 2018. 176 p. ill. ISBN 9781941302569 (hardcover), $25.00.
Reviewed June 2019
Claire Powell, Instructional Design Librarian, Ringling College of Art + Design, firstname.lastname@example.org
Algeria is Beautiful Like America is a memoir by Olivia Burton that follows her journey to unearth the origins of her family and the realizations that occur along the way. Olivia grew up surrounded by retellings of the picturesque lives of her relatives in French occupied Algeria and the circumstances that led them to flee their beloved home. As Olivia gets older, she becomes more and more curious to see the places so often described in her family’s stories and uncover the events that led to their departure. Using the written histories of her recently deceased grandmother as a guide, Olivia travels to the homeland of her parents and grandparents in hopes of experiencing the places behind her family’s decades old stories and the dark realities surrounding their lives in war torn Algeria. Through her travels and the people she meets, Olivia begins to understand what it means to carry a war with you that you never experienced.
Accompanied by Mahi Grand’s beautiful illustrations and dynamic panels, Algeria is Beautiful Like America transports you to the Algerian landscape through black, white, and gray depictions along with color renderings of Burton’s actual photographs from her travels. Moving between traditional panels to panel-less pages, Grand provides the reader with changing perspectives and visual diversity while pairing biographical scenes with images of whimsy, hinting at Burton’s fears, daydreams, and imaginations surrounding her family’s stories and Algerian travels.
Touching on the timely themes of xenophobia, racism, religion, and war, Algeria is Beautiful Like America would make a valuable contribution to any collection seeking to reflect current discourse on these topics through a very personal experience.