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Comic Book / Habibi

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Habibi is a graphic novel by Craig Thompson published in 2011. The story is a drama about two children, Dodola and Zam, who struggle for their lives in a fictional Islamic country. Their narrative is shown in parallel with tales and stories from The Bible and The Qur'an.

Official website here.

Habibi provides examples of:

  • Anachronic Order: The story often switches between different periods of both Dodola and Zam's lifetimes.
  • Arranged Marriage: At the beginning of the story Dodola’s parents sell their 9-year-old daughter to a scribe because of a severe drought.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Various quotes from both The Bible and the Quran.
  • The Bluebeard: The Sultan regularly drowns his wives when they become too old.
  • Break the Cutie: During their stay with the upbeat and selfless fisherman Noah, his attitude is repeatedly and heavily challenged by the reality of his home; namely, the sight of a woman fishing corpses out of the water, or the death of an old homeless man he cared for. Ultimately, the destruction of his water purifier destroys all of his optimism, before the recovery of Dodola helps cheer him back up.
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  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: A 9-year-old Dodola is married to a much older scribe but the latter is portrayed as a nice man.
  • Exact Words: Dodola turns "a jug of water into gold" by trading the jug of water for an empty gold one with a thirsty Sultan.
  • Doorstopper: The book is 672 pages long.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Despite taking place in the future, nobody is shown having guns, not even the Sultan's soldiers. Thompson wanted to depict a clash of the old world and the new while avoiding depicting guns or warfare.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Played with. Dodola when she finds out that she's pregnant asks her maid to have an abortion. She changes her mind later when she realizes that she won't be reunited with her adoptive son.
  • Hate Sink: The Sultan is not only gross and perverted but also treats women as disposable objects.
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  • Lack of Empathy: How does the Sultan react when Dodola announces that their son just died and thus doesn't want to have sex? He gleefully declares that it's time to make another one and proceeds to rape her.
  • Karma Houdini:
  • The Sultan imprisons Dodola, keeps her as his sex toy for several years, and the last we see of him he's ordering the execution of perhaps dozens of courtesans because he's bored with. The book ends without so much as a hint of remorse or retribution on the Sultan's part.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Dodola's husband when he realizes, after having sex with her, that she's still only a child and not ready for that, from there on he never does it again.
  • Not Blood Siblings: Dodola and Zam end up together despite the former having raised the latter as her son and brother. However, they don't consummate their relationship as during his adolescence, Zam became a eunuch but they have non-penetrative sex.
    Noah: Uh... you two have a unique marriage.
  • Parental Substitute: Dodola for Zam. Zam was originally named Ham like Noah's son. Dodola saved him when men were about to kill him.
  • Qurac: The book takes place in a country called Wanatolia, at first it looks like a grimdark take on "Arabian Nights" Days, but then it is revealed to be set in the modern era. It is hinted already at the beginning when Dodola's husband is shown to have a motorcycle.
  • Rape as Drama: One day, Dodola refused to sleep with a man who then raped her as Zam watched the whole scene. The Sultan also rapes her a few times.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: Dodola mentions the account by different religions about the Biblical stories. For Jews and Christians, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac but for Muslims, it was Ishmael his first son. For Jews and Christians, Noah's wife was on the ark but for the Muslims, she wasn't allowed to enter it because she was an unbeliever.
  • Reality Ensues: Dodola's trick to "turn water into gold" by having the Sultan give her gold in exchange for water is quickly denounced as a trick.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: King Solomon and Queen of Sheba Bilquis are identified with the protagonists of the Song of Solomon. He repeatedly asked her hand but she had to stay a virgin to keep her royal status. After she left, Solomon became a polygamist out of bitterness.
  • Turtle Power: In one of the first stories told by Dodola, men implore the river god to cease his inundations. Under the appearance of a turtle, he shows them how to stop them with Lo Shu Square on his shell.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • Slave traders considered killing the three-year-old Zam before Dodola claimed it was her brother.
    • Dodola's son Rajab is killed in his sleep.


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