Today on the site, Alex Wong interviews Brigitte Findakly and Lewis Trondheim about their collaborative book, Poppies of Iraq.
In the book, you convey very well the overall experience of growing up as an Orthodox Christian in Iraq. How would you describe that experience now that you’ve had a chance to reflect on it?
Brigitte Findakly: I didn’t think about it. I just grew up thinking I was a normal little girl. Life in Mosul was very calm. Our neighbours were our best friends and they were Muslim. When there was a coup d’etat, the only perceptible consequence was that we wouldn’t have to go to school the next day. I never saw hangings, dead bodies or any sort of war scene. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to make this book, to show that Iraq in the 1960s was different from the place we’ve heard about on the news for so many years.
There’s a lot in the book about the history of Iraq juxtaposed against your own experiences living there.
I learned Mesopotamian history in school by heart. For the book, I really wanted to juxtapose my family’s personal history with the larger sweeping headlines from political and historical events. I was hesitant to delve too far into the past. I wanted to stay in my area, beginning in the 1950s. I would have loved to be able to talk about other older facets of history in Iraq. I think Americans would see a different side of the country if they knew that it was the birthplace of beer (Not Budweiser, of course, but just beer in general).
I especially loved the “In Iraq” interludes in the book where we get to learn about traditions and customs of the country.
Brigitte Findakly: Those pages gave us the chance to talk about the culture of Iraq and things that were true to most people who grew up there. It was important to me that this could be seen as a history of many of the millions of Iraqis who exist, and that I wasn’t just telling my story.
There are social customs in Iraq that are specific and different from many other cultures. Specifically, you mentioned in the book about marriages and relationships, that 95 percent of marriages in Iraq are arranged. Did that shape the way you approached relationships at all growing up?
My parents did not have an arranged marriage so I knew I wouldn’t end up in one, even before we left for France. I think my parents were much braver than I was when it came to this. I am and have always been puzzled that my family continues to believe in the practice of arranged marriages. I’ve become pretty fatalistic about this position, though of course everyone is certain their way of being is the right and only way.
Hey, the CXC festival starts tomorrow. That’s a thing I’d like to attend sometime.
Sometimes I get excited about some new comics release. Such is the case with D&Q’s upcoming Anna & Froga collection. These comics are so sturdy and enjoyable.
Great book over here.