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Eisele, Terry & Bowman, Brent – Far Tune: Spring

Website (Terry)
Website (Brent)

Far Tune: Spring

I’ve read a whole lot of series ending graphic novels over the years, and one thing that really impressed me about this one was how assured it was in wrapping things up. Granted, there’s no magic ring to be tossed into a volcano at the end, just a young woman trying to adjust to life in Ohio schools after living in a refugee camp and then London. Still, you need a conclusion for something like this, and Terry and Brent really landed this sucker. Things start off with a completely silent recap of Fartun’s leaving the refugee camp, and the decision to make it silent was brilliant. All we needed was to focus on her wide-eyed awe at just about everything she was experiencing (often while her father and brother were sleeping), from the little things like power locks in cars to getting on an airplane and actually flying away. From there the bulk of the school portion of the book deals with Fartun (and her friend Bea) getting back from spring break and discovering that they have to do a big project that covers three different classes. They come to the same conclusion separately; Fartun can write and Bea can draw, so why not combine their project to make a comic about Fartun’s time in the camp? They get approval, go to Laughing Ogre to get some resource material (always nice to see a great comic shop get recognized), and we get to read what sure looks like the actual comic that they made reproduced in this volume. There’s also a lot going on here with Fartun’s family, as the conflict between her more traditional father and his children (her and her brother) comes to a head. No sense getting too far into spoilers for the last volume of a series, but let’s just say that arranged marriages and forced relocation for “wayward children” are both things that are perfectly fine in the more antiquated parts of that culture, and neither of those things would go over well with children mostly raised in America. This whole series is another thoroughly impressive achievement, taking a lot of time to tell a story that’s too often glossed over or ignored entirely. It’s absolutely worth checking out, although if you wait a few years and happen to have kids (or grandkids, or nephews/nieces, etc.) I’d have to imagine this series being taught in schools. Anyway, I’m looking to see what he comes up with next, unless he wants to take a few years off to recover… $10

Eisele, Terry & Bowman, Brent – Far Tune: Winter

Website (Terry)

Website (Brent)

Far Tune: Winter

A bit of personal history here, which applies to why I used the sample image. Back in my early days of working at the Board of Elections in Columbus (I’ve since moved on to a different BOE, which confirms that I’m a glutton for punishment), I noticed that a whole lot of names that we got from the naturalization process were for January 1st of whatever year. It took me a few years to get a solid answer as to why that was the case, but if you’re curious, Fartun lays out the reasoning here. I’d just let everybody pick their own birthday, which is one more reason why I’ll never rule the world. Anyway, this volume picks up shortly after the holiday break is over, and we’re shown exactly why that’s an odd time to be in Ohio from somebody who went from a refugee camp to a few years in London. We see a bit more of the camp too, including more detail about how Fartun’s mother died and her reaction at the time. There’s a constant background tension around her brother and father; guess I’ll find out in the next volume whether it gets resolved or if it’s just a part of trying to fit into a foreign (and often hostile) culture. This volume spends a lot of time on slam poetry, so if you’re as unfamiliar with it as I was you’re going to learn a few new things here. We also see some of the more overt racism so far, as Fartun is forced to participate with another school because her bully told everybody to boycott the team if she (Fartun) was on it. It’s a fascinating subculture, with a lot more rules that I would have guessed. Oh, and there’s also a bit of Somali mythology, as she tells her friend Bea the story of Dhegdheer, essentially a monster that was used to keep children from wandering off but with a tragic backstory. There are at least a few actual poems included from the time depicted (still in 2005), which was a nice touch, and it showed that she had some serious poetry skills right off the bat. It looks like the series concludes in the next volume (so much for my theory for their being a book for each of the four seasons), and these are some hefty books that are currently going for $10 each on Amazon. Or maybe a package deal if you’re lucky enough to run into Terry at a con…

Eisele, Terry & Bowman, Brent – Far Tune: Autumn


Far Tune: Autumn

If you’re wondering why a book would be called “Far Tune,” Terry and Brent don’t leave you in suspense for long. This book (and this series of books, I believe the plan is for one covering each season) is about a young Somali girl named Fartun, and “far tune” is how she helps out people who are confused as to the possible pronunciation of her name. Seems obvious to me from the spelling, but never underestimate the willful ignorance of Americans. This starts off with Fartun and her family (father, mother and brother) in a refugee camp in Kenya. Things aren’t great, obviously, but the people there are living as best they can. We flash forward a bit to 2005 with the family living in a rough looking apartment building in Columbus Ohio. Bit by bit we get pieces of Fartun’s life at the time, including her family dynamic (her mother had sadly passed away at the refugee camp, leaving just the three of them), her awkwardness with her two Somali friends (later revealed to be because she hadn’t clued them in as to where she was going to school for ninth grade), and of starting at a new school. This takes up a significant chunk of the book, but Fartun was lucky enough to find a friend very quickly, so she was able to settle in, or at least pick up a routine. This a roundabout way of me saying that the story surprised me at several turns, as I was afraid this would be a tale of bullying or having to compromise to fit in, but no, Fartun was remarkably self-assured at that age, while of course still being aware of the potential for problems all around her. I was also worrying about overt racism being inescapable, what with the time frame and all (9/11 cast a long shadow against anybody who was brown, kids who weren’t old enough to notice at the time), but while it does pop up here and there, overall this is just the story of Fartun living her life, trying to fit in her daily prayers and dealing with her family/school/work dynamic. Terry (the writer) said at CXC that he got to know Fartun later while he was teaching, and I’m hoping he gets into that in one of these volumes because it seems like there’s a story to be told there too. It’s a solid first book of the series, as I’m very tempted to just tear through the series so far (yes, of course I bought all three books that were available; after “With Only Five Plums” I’m thoroughly on board for whatever project Terry is working on). Give it a shot, there’s a lot to like here. $10 (although if you’re lucky he might be willing to do a package deal for a few volumes)