Study Guide for Footnotes in Gaza
Created by: Joe Sacco
Published by: Metropolitan
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Notes: For the inaugural meeting of our Graphic Novel Book Club, we read and discussed Joe Sacco's Footnotes in Gaza. For several of our members, Footnotes was the first graphic novel they had ever read. On top of that, most of the members were entirely or largely uninformed of the Palestinian side to the long-lived conflict. This study guide offers the questions I created for my particular group, as well as some links to relevant Wikipedia articles to help flesh out discussion.
- Sacco skips back and forth through time in Footnotes, narrating events in both 1953 and 2003. Did you have any trouble following Joe Sacco's story or did you find he enunciated these skips clearly enough?
- Comics straddle this line between using words and using pictures to convey meaning. In Footnotes in Gaza, some of the most powerful scenes are visual. Which images did you think best worked to convey the story he was telling?
- Conversely, do you remember any instances where it was the words (rather than the pictures) that worked most powerfully in a scene?
- This is kind of piggy-backing on the last two questions but were there any scenes that you felt couldn't be depicted as well with the written word alone, a scene whose reliance upon the comics medium was wholehearted?
- What do you think of Sacco as a narrator? Did he hold your interest? Did he gain your sympathies? Did you find him a worthwhile leading man?
- Sacco was pretty roundly accused by conservative reviewers of being too obviously biased in Footnotes. Jose Alaniz, from the University of Washington's Department of Comparative Literature, said Sacco manipulated the reader in "all sorts of subtle ways. Very often he will pick angles in his artwork that favor the perspective of the victim: He'll draw Israeli soldiers or settlers from a low perspective to make them more menacing and towering.Sacco drew children in such a way to make them seem more victimized." Do you think Alaniz's perspective is merited? Did you feel manipulated while reading the book?
- Sacco himself has stated that he's not a strong believer in what he considers a myth of American journalism: that it's the journalist's responsibility to offer all sides of a conflict without bias or commentary. For that reason, he makes more of an effort to capture the perspective of the Palestinians, with whom he's sympathetic. What do you think of this? Should the journalist's do his best to impassively report news while keeping alert so as to remove as much as possible his own biases?
- Do you think Footnotes would have been a better book had it been a simple reporting of verified fact (to the degree that you believe this to be possible)?
- Sacco attempts to bridge the gap between 1956 and today (or at least 2003) and show how events five decades ago are relevant to today's conflict. Do you think he succeeds?
- What did you most appreciate about Footnotes? Is there anything you didn't like about it?
- What do you think should be the effect of a book like Footnotes on the reader?
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