This adult graphic novel is not for the faint of heart. Habibi is a very sad story, depicting a broken childhood of a girl married off at a young age, who after her husband dies and she is sold into slavery learns to fend for herself by exchanging sex for food. There is quite a bit of rape and weird relationships between characters in this book. Besides these social goings-ons, Habibi tells the story of environmental catastrophe as it would be experienced in a slum, and the social and emotional ramifications that exist around this experience today.
Habibi is modern, but not stuck in time. Thompson plays with time, and the feeling that different realities are being experienced at the same time. By this I mean that it’s clear through the construction that this book is set in modern times, but because the characters are often homeless or slaves, their experience feels rather timeless, and they pass through their realities as though there were no linear sense of time.
Despite how much trauma these characters have been through throughout their journey, the ending was hopeful, and I found that was much needed by the end of the story. Thompson timed it perfectly, for just when I felt I couldn’t bear any more of their heartache as a reader, Zam and Dodola catch a hopeful break.
I highly recommend this book for anyone looking for an emotional and unique graphic novel.