I’m not sure when I came up with the idea for a graphic novel about At-Tuwani, but I know exactly when I decided I was going to write it. I was in the village visiting R. family (I won’t use their names to protect their privacy here on the internet). The R. family had extended family over and the tea and conversation was flowing. I was sitting in the corner chatting quietly with the two youngest sons. The guys were complaining that there weren’t any books about At-Tuwani that were really about them, that is, about the village’s resistance. “Yeah,” I said. “There really should be a good book about Tuwani.”
“You should write one, Joy” they told me.
“Well,” I said. “I really want to.”
That’s when I realized that I really didn’t have the Arabic vocabulary to explain what a graphic novel is. (In case you are wondering, I can manage an explanation in English: a graphic novel is a novel length story told in the form of a comic book.) Naturally, as I got progressively more and more tongue tied, the room got quiet. Everyone, I realized, was paying attention to me – and my really bad Arabic. “What are you talking about?” ask the matriarch of the family. “Explain.”
“I want to write a book about Tuwani. It will have not just words, but also pictures. Words aren’t enough to make people understand. It’s better if there are pictures too,” I stammered. I’m pretty sure my cheeks were bright red at this point. I trailed off.
“People will understand more if they can see what happened,” the youngest son of the family helpfully echoed. I nodded.
“You should do it,” said the family matriarch.
“Okay,” I answered.
And that’s how I became committed to this project.