Friday, December 26, 2008

I Live Here or Bush at War

I Live Here

Author: MIA Kirshner

I Live Here is a paper documentary–an intimate journey to humanitarian crises in four corners of the world: war in Chechnya, ethnic cleansing in Burma, globalization in Mexico, and AIDS in Malawi.


I Live Here is a visually stunning narrative — told through journals, stories, images, and graphic novellas — in which the lives of refugees and displaced people become at once personal and global. Bearing witness to stories that are too often overlooked, it is a raw and intimate journey to crises in four corners of the world: war in Chechnya, ethnic cleansing in Burma, globalization in Mexico, and AIDS in Malawi.

The voices we encounter are those of displaced women and children, in their own words or in stories told in text and images by noted writers and artists. The stories unfold in an avalanche: An orphan goes to jail for stealing leftovers. A teenage girl falls in love in a city of disappeared women. A child soldier escapes his army only to be saved by the people he was taught to kill.

Mia Kirshner’s journals guide us through a unique paper documentary brought vividly to life in collaboration with J.B. MacKinnon, Paul Shoebridge, and Michael Simons, with featured works by Joe Sacco, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Phoebe Gloeckner, Chris Abani, Karen Connelly, Kamel Khelif, and many others.


The border of the Russian republic of Ingushetia is not even fifty miles from Grozny, the capital city of Chechnya. Today, some 15,000 Chechen refugees live in Ingushetia. Mia Kirshner and Joe Sacco traveled here together,returning with first-person accounts, video, photographs, and other materials gathered in Nazran and Moscow. The chapter includes journals by Mia Kirshner, the story of a young refugee as told by J.B. MacKinnon, the story of a young piano virtuoso as told by Ann-Marie Macdonald, and a graphic novella of Chechen refugees by Joe Sacco.

Ethnic cleansing by the Burmese military has displaced an estimated 500,000 to 1 million people; over 100,000 live in refugee camps along the Thailand-Burma border. Burma is also believed to be home to more child soldiers than any other country in the world. Mia Kirshner and Michael Simons took separate trips to the region; this chapter is based on their interviews, photos, and video, as well as writing by sex workers and Karen refugees. It includes journals by Mia Kirshner, as well as work by Chris Abani, Karen Connelly, J.B. Mackinnon, and a graphic novella by Kamel Khélif.

Ciudad Juárez is a large industrial border city in Mexico across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas. Since 1993, young women, many of them employees of Juárez’s more than three hundred maquiladoras, or global trade zone factories, have been disappearing from the streets. Mia Kirshner and Phoebe Gloeckner made independent journeys to this region; this book is informed by the stories and images they brought home. It includes journals, a story of one of the victims by Lauren Kirshner, and a graphic novella by Phoebe Gloeckner.

Malawi is one of the world’s poorest countries, and has an AIDS rate close to twenty percent. The disease touches every aspect of daily life in the African nation, introducing immense chaos, particularly in the case of orphan children. Mia Kirshner and J.B. MacKinnon made the trip to Malawi and returned with interviews, photographs, writing, and artworks. This book includes journals, a children’s story by J.B. MacKinnon with art by Julie Morstad, and the stories and artwork of boys in a local prison.

Publishers Weekly

This "paper documentary," as they bill it, tells hot-button stories from four world crisis areas: Chechnya (in the midst of war), Burma (ethnic cleansing), Mexico (globalization) and Malawi (AIDS). Those credited are identified as an actor, an author and two "creative directors who have conceptualized international advocacy campaigns," as well as a number of other artists and writers. Each 84-page book (collected in a foldout case) is formatted as a collage-illustrated multimedia journal with stories of various refugees. Two contain short graphic novels. Joe Sacco (Palestine) tackles Chechnya in his straightforward lack of style. Burma is the fumetti-inspired story of a young sex worker, featuring heavily photo-referenced art by Kamel Khelif. The Mexican entry tells the story of one of the many young female factory workers gone missing and found dead in Juarez. Malawi has the feel of an African folktale. An ambitious project of this scope, with all the attendant marketing, may strike the jaded as another guilt-assuaging, résumé-building charity effort. However, the vibrant, collage-like approach to the subject matter gives the material immediacy, even if those most likely to read it are already persuaded something should be done about these perils. (Oct.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Reviews

A visually stunning presentation of the lives of women and children surviving under the worst circumstances in Burma, Mexico, Russia and Malawi. The project is a joint production of actress/reporter Kirshner, writer MacKinnon (Dead Man in Paradise: Unraveling a Murder from a Time of Evolution, 2007, etc.) and Shoebridge and Simons, creative directors at Adbusters. (The book also contains work from Chris Abani, Phoebe Gloeckner, Joe Sacco and others.) The authors open with the anonymous stories of refugees along the Thailand-Burma border, featuring sex workers in Burmese brothels where the HIV/AIDS rate is 25 percent, and children forced into service in the Burmese army. The horrific stories of rape, abortion and violence they tell are accompanied by equally disturbing artwork that combines paintings, drawings, text and photographs. In Russia, the setting is the Republic of Ingushetia, home to refugee camps filled with displaced persons from neighboring Chechnya. Included here is a stark six-part graphic novel, "Chechen War, Chechen Women," depicting the grim lives of women during and after the war. The Mexican section looks at the lives of missing and murdered girls in Ciudad Juarez and features a still-missing teenager, Ericka, whose story is illustrated with Polaroid snapshots of empty rooms annotated by her mother, and Claudia, a murdered 20-year-old whose short life is illustrated with sketches, documents, posters, needlework pictures and collages. In Malawi, where HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis are decimating the villages, a simple, poignant story of birth, life and death from "the wasting disease" is accompanied by delicate, lovely illustrations. The inmates of Kachere Prison,mostly poor orphan boys awaiting trial, narrate their stories of murder and minor theft, with the text superimposed over bleak, harsh, poster-like blocks of type. Kirshner, who visited the brothels, refugee camps and prisons in each of these countries to interview the subjects, links the pieces, provides the background necessary to understand each situation and offers her thoughts and impressions. The contributions of her collaborators are not individually identified, but the visuals lift this work above the ordinary. Somewhat uneven writing amid a myriad of powerful images.

Book review: The New Cleaning and Cooking Fish or Basque Kitchen

Bush at War

Author: Bob Woodward

Bush at War reveals in stunning detail how an untested president with a sweeping vision for remaking the world and war cabinet members often at odds with each other responded to the September 11 terrorist attacks and prepared to confront Iraq. Woodward's virtual wiretap into the White House Situation Room is the first history of the war on terrorism.

Publishers Weekly

Quoting liberally from transcripts of National Security Council meetings and hundreds of interviews with those in the presidential inner circle, including four hours of interviews with Bush himself, the Washington Post assistant managing editor, best-selling author and Watergate muckraker manages to provide a nonpartisan account of the first 100 days of the post September 11 war on terror. While Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, President Bush and CIA Director George Tenet are impressive, Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz come off as hawkish and reactionary, repeatedly calling for a strike against Iraq in the first days of the conflict while pushing for a more widespread, global war. Woodward does an excellent job of exposing the seat-of-their-pants planning sessions conducted at the highest levels of power and the hectic diplomacy practiced by Powell and Bush in trying to get the air war against Afghanistan off the ground. He also brings to light the divisions among the planners concerning the bombing in Afghanistan, which made little impact until late in the game, when the Taliban lines were finally hit. In addition to recounting the heated arguments about when and how to retaliate against Al Qaeda, Woodward also follows Special Ops agents flown into Afghanistan with millions in payoff money weeks in advance of any other American presence. Living in harsh conditions with little to no support, these "110 CIA officers and 316 Special Forces personnel," in this account, ran the show, and effectively won the war with their intelligence gathering operations. While at times relying a bit too heavily on transcribed conversations, Woodward nonetheless offers one of the first truly insightful and informative accounts of the decision making process in the war on terror. 16 pages of b&w photos. ( Nov.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.

Foreign Affairs

There was a time when it was necessary to wait for memoirs and the opening of archives before finding out how senior policymakers had handled the great issues of war and peace. We now expect an instant running commentary, and few are so well placed to provide one as Woodward. He had access to the key Washington players as they orchestrated the "war on terror" and also to notes of their meetings. The result is always informative and often riveting, as much for the early tussles over policy toward Iraq as for the conduct of the campaign against al Qaeda. Woodward insists he provides only corroborated "facts," but he still distorts the overall picture by relying too much on cooperation with the key players and by paying too little attention to the actual course of events on the ground (especially from the battle of Tora Bora on) or failing to consider the wider context. As with Woodward's book on the Persian Gulf War, The Commanders, quick publication brings scoops but also a lack of perspective.

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