Review: Habibi by Craig Thompson

May 21, 2018
Habibi, Craig Thompson, Book Review, InToriLex
Published By: Pantheon on September 20, 2011
Format Read: Hardcover Edition (672 pages)
Genre: Comic/ Middle Eastern Inspired/ Adult
Series: Standalone
Source: Library
Sprawling across an epic landscape of deserts, harems, and modern industrial clutter, Habibi tells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, by circumstance, and by the love that grows between them. We follow them as their lives unfold together and apart; as they struggle to make a place for themselves in a world (not unlike our own) fueled by fear, lust, and greed; and as they discover the extraordinary depth—and frailty—of their connection.

At once contemporary and timeless, Habibi gives us a love story of astounding resonance: a parable about our relationship to the natural world, the cultural divide between the first and third worlds, the common heritage of Christianity and Islam, and, most potently, the magic of storytelling.


Content Warning: Rape, Drug Use, Poverty, Sexual Abuse, Genital Mutilation, Prostitution, Violence, Racist


This book broke my heart and stomped on the pieces multiple times. It was engaging and unique but also extremely problematic. Habibi means Beloved in Arabic, and the story follows Dodola and Zam through horrific hardships and pain. The journey is interspersed with stories from Christianity and Islam, using the commonalities between the two to create a hybrid story. The artwork was masterfully done but the portrayals of the people and culture of Wantolia included caricature and stereotypes of the Middle Eastern cultures this drew inspiration from. The author has acknowledged he was inspired by Orientalist artist who interpret the Middle East through a western lens which is often racist. I didn't know this book before reading it. I did enjoy the characters and story telling but wish I knew this before I decided to read it.
Habibi, InToriLex, Craig Thompson
Dodola had to endure sexual violence over and over throughout her life. The portrayals of rape was sexualized at times and woman were usually powerless to the authority around them. The use of magical realism through images helped the author capture powerful feelings and inspire empathy. The religiously based stories bridge connections between Islam and Christianity highlighting their commonalities. However I was hoping that the stories would lead to a interconnected place. I found myself invested in the characters but was shocked by the extreme sexual violence and sterotypes that were portrayed. I did manage to finish the book and it did make me think deeply at times. But I wouldn't have read this book if I knew the author was inspired by racist views, and used inspiration from a culture to further degrade it to western readers. The only reason I gave it two stars is because I managed to finish it and enjoyed the characters.
Habibi, InToriLex, Book Review

Not Recommended for Readers who
- want to  learn about middle eastern culture
- enjoy feminists portrayals and themes
- want to support authors who approach serious topics thoughtfully


Craig Ringwalt Thompson (b. September 21, 1975 in Traverse City, Michigan) is a graphic novelist best known for his 2003 work Blankets. Thompson has received four Harvey Awards, two Eisner Awards, and two Ignatz Awards. In 2007, his cover design for the Menomena album Friend and Foe received a Grammy nomination for Best Recording Package.

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