Questions about Characters
What symptoms of PTSD are expressed by Ahmad?
On page 113 Ahmad is standing before two roads. What does each road represent?
How do the two contrasting images on page 108 represent Ahmad’s future and where he is now?
Questions about Themes
Many of the stories and details told in this graphic novel may seem loosely connected, such as pages 31-34 about za’atar, a traditional Palestinian seasoning. Why do you think the author included these stories? What purpose do they serve? How does the author use the story about za’atar to describe Ahmad’s life in Baddawi and his relationship to Palestine?
The image on page 83 tell a story much greater than the text. What do these images represent? Why is chess referenced in a scene that appears as war?
Why does the author contrast images of seemingly mundane or typical day-to-day routines with depictions of war and violence? How does this depiction of normalcy and violence impact the reader, such as on page 84 where children are playing catch on a battlefield or the silhouettes of those lost on page 42?
How did the final chapter influence your view on the American higher education system?
Questions about Relevance of Imagery
On page 100 there is a short heading and a large image. What does this image portray? What do you think the monsters on the border represent throughout the book?
Bodies or pools of water, such as on page 68, 97 and 101, are used throughout the book to represent Ahmad’s situation. What do these bodies of water represent? What is the author trying to show through these illustrations?
Multiple times in the book the author shows characters baking or eating as violence ensues. On page 99 Ahmad eats a kafta sandwich as a bomb explodes and on pages 62-63 Zuheir’s wife is killed while baking bread. Why would the author choose this imagery to depict the violence of war? What is the author trying to show or contrast?
Questions about Style
Did the collection of photos at the end of the graphic novel make the story feel more real?
Did the vague depictions of gun violence add to or subtract from your reading experience?
Does the lack of color in the graphic novel add or take away from the story?
Do the onomatopoeias throughout the novel, such as “whizz” or “boom” on page 111, detract from the reader’s understanding of war and Ahmad’s adolescence?
Why might the author have chosen to omit text or context for certain pages throughout the novel, such as on page 111 where an explosion occurs while Ahmad is out buying groceries? What message does the author give by not mentioning every explosion or massacre directly? How does the lack of text make the images more powerful?
Olivia Bowman, Jordan Tauber & Shane McGarry 2019