Rolling Blackouts: A Review

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Rolling Blackouts was my first foray into the world of graphic journalism.  As she accompanies her journalist friends to Turkey, Iraq and Syria, Sarah Glidden takes readers through what it is like to be a journalist piecing together a story in a foreign country.  At the heart of the narrative is the question: what is journalism? Beautifully illustrated and written in a conversational, at times confessional tone, Rolling Blackouts is an illuminating read.

Behind the Scenes

What I loved most about this graphic novel was the “behind the scenes” feel that Glidden shows her readers. There are moments in the narrative where the reader gets to see how the Globalist crew looks at the information that they’ve collected and decides how they are going to craft their narrative.  Moreover, since we observe the information through Sarah’s perspective as a quasi-outsider, when she asks questions of the characters it feels genuine.

Understated Watercolours

The soft watercolour scenes are beautiful and she does an excellent job of revealing countries that a lot of people might not visit. Using a mix of more intimate close-ups of character discussions and sprawling  city and country scenes, it felt like I was right there along with her.

The use of light and darkness in Rolling Blackouts serves as a means to emphasize moments  of intimacy, which is one of the best parts of this book.  In one scene, Dan, an ex-military man talks about a friend who he lost in the war.  The scene takes place in a car, driving down a darkened country road and the only light in the scene are the pinpricks of light in the distance.  The result is a deeply honest, intimate moment.

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Everyone Has a Story

Glidden winds together a lot of fascinating human stories of refugees and civilians throughout her narrative.  What makes it so engrossing is the fact that we feel like we’re privy to real conversations (most likely because Glidden recorded many of these conversations on her trip).  In a sense, it feels like Sarah Glidden has brought me along for the ride.

Apart from the thought-provoking examination of the journalistic process, the story flow is elaborate, connecting the stories of an ex-soldier’s return to Iraq, countless refugees, civilians and officials, all of which seem to be interconnected in some way. I thought that Glidden’s illustration of flashbacks later in the narrative was particularly inventive; while the characters discuss their own feelings towards the war in Iraq, the images transport us back to a moment in the past when they were protesting.  This contrast of dialogue and illustrations captures the way that the characters are often at odds with their own feelings about the war and their roles in relation to it.

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I highly recommend that anyone who is interested in journalism or likes to read travel narratives should read Rolling Blackouts.  It’s one narrative adventure that you won’t want to miss.

 

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