Foreground: A Key to Understanding

 

Cover of Vietnamerica graphic novel

Have you ever judged a book by its foreground? For many pages of G.B Trans graphic memoir Vietnamerica(2010), its precisely what readers are doing. Foreground is a usual tool used by artists in order to convey a certain message, where the subject or focus of the image is manipulated by the artist in order to move the readers eyes and attention to one specific aspect of the piece of art. On pages 9 and 10 of the graphic this memoir this tool is used.

Foreground on these pages creates an effect of sadness. In the pages 9 and 10 the scene where the grandmother’s death is described, the narrator’s mom is walking with an image of her mother. In the panel after this one the image of the grandmother is magnified and is made the focus of that image. Panels with big images are presented and then in a panel afterwards a specific part of the image is magnified. This tool allows the readers to understand the main idea the author/artist is trying to portray, given that with pieces of work like this one it can be hard to understand the authors/artists intent with artistic actions.

In addition, foreground also creates the effect of emotions intensified to the reader. In regards of the image of the grandmother, the readers are forced to focus on the grandmother and the grieve of the scene. The text on this page shows that the narrator was not close to his grandmother but given that the focus was made to be the grieve from his grandmother’s death, the readers are able to understand the narrators love for his mom. The text says he went to Vietnam for his mom and to be there for his mom through this difficult situation regardless of not knowing many people there, his love for his mom drove him to Vietnam.

The way foreground is used in these pages and memoir connects to the idea of each layer of an image having its distinct significance. For instance, the background of an image may intend to depict a contrasting idea of that of middle ground and foreground. This can be seen when the background of an image is drawn with dark colors and saddened features, but the foreground may be the opposite with bright colors and happy emotions intended. Foreground adds the necessary sub explanation that’s needed to complete an image and understanding.

B4

Works Cited:

Tran, Gia-Bao. Vietnamerica. New York, Villard Books, 2010.

 

Colorful Transitions in Vietnamerica

Cover of Vietnamerica graphic novel
What better way to tell your story than by the creative use of drawings, color, and free-flow structure? From the first few pages, G.B. Tran’s Vietnamerica (2010) emits layers of meanings through its structure, colors, form, and language. One of the noticeable structures is the many blank single-colored pages that act as a separator for different sections/eras of the novel. They have little to no other content on the page and function as a transition for different time periods (past and present).

The pages range in color from maroon, to white, to semi-pitch black, to bright blue, to dark navy blue, and to bright red. The maroon page comes before GB’s trip to Vietnam for his grandmother’s funeral. The white page comes after a portrait of Tran outlined in black with outlines of his parent in blue and red overlapping. The semi-pitch black page comes after the all-white page and appears before a section in which Tri’s family is forced to make the decision to move to a village outside of Mytho. The dark navy-blue page comes before the section that begins with GB packing his stuff in New York. The bright red pages come after a section where Tri is getting tortured for information.

This pattern of using different colored blank pages as transitions from past events to present day allows the readers to get a hint of the tone of the next section and gives reader a chance to read the next section with a blank slate (without thinking too much about previous information they were just given in prior sections). These blank pages remind me of clean slates, which is significant considering the narrative is bouncing back and forth from past and present. It allows readers to digest what they’ve just read and prepare for the next section. The choices of colors themselves also provide some sort of indication of the tone for the following section. For example, the dark navy blue page indicates that the tone of the next section is one of dreariness, routine, or lackluster.

In providing these plain, colorful blank pages, the graphic novel takes readers on a rollercoaster of an emotional narrative. They allow readers to empathize in some way with Tran’s experience, which gives the novel more meaning that just pictures and colors on a page.

 

Works Cited
Tran, Gia-Bao. Vietnamerica. New York, Villard Books, 2010.

B4.

Vietnamerica & The Artistry of Graphic Memoirs

In my experience, graphic memoirs are some of the most informative mediums of cultural text. The illustration, dialogue, framing and colors within a graphic memoir work in cohesive fashion to intensify patterns, emotions, and narrative themes. I find the artistry of how an author uses these creative tools entertaining and at times more helpful than a traditional novel to read from

In Vietnamerica, GB Tran’s use of color, shading, and spacing within his illustrations work successfully to exaggerate the frustrations GB feels after arriving in Vietnam with his family. On page 49, GB Tran depicts himself annoyed at his mother for coddling him over what to pack for their family trip to Vietnam. The neutral shading in this set of frames consists of neutral blues, blacks and whites. Pacing around his home in New York GB disregards his mother’s sentiments.

In the last frame of the page, GB paints himself engulfed in a chaotic blend of orange and black smoke. Suggesting an out of body experience, GB looks as if he is in an illusion where his head is floating into thin air, above his body. The frame transports the audience in an unfamiliar place which one could assume is Vietnam. Given the expression of his face, it is clear GB recognizes he should have listened to the wisdom of his mother.

On the following page, GB is depicted with spinning wheels for eyes, going mad. The unfamiliar streets of Vietnam are now roaring with trucks, food vendors, children, families, store fronts and exhaust. Within these frames, distinct hues of red and orange direct the gaze of the audience to the communist star depicted near the center of the illustration. Through the overt application of bright orange and reds hues covering communist symbolism, GB suggests the disruptive nature of these frames as resultative of the destructive aftermath of communism.

In these frames GB is stripped of his Western comforts and familiarity back in New York. He is framed in harsh juxtaposition against aspects of the Vietnamese culture he is one generation removed from.

All of his interactions within these frames are short,and dismissive. While trying to purchase Pho from a street vendor, his language capabilities are shattered. Nothing he says or does seems to resonate within this space which his family nostalgically roots themselves. GB depicts himself almost escaping the 2-dimensionality if the page to exaggerate the alienation he feels. There is simply no space for him. The singular illustration symbolic of the American culture he grew up around is the red and yellow McDonalds brand presented in the background of a smaller frame. Even this is drowned out behind an excess collection of dust and exhaust.

Works Cited

Tran, Gia-Bao. Vietnamerica. New York, Random House Inc, 2011.

B4

 

To Be or Not to Be what The London Eye Sees

What happens when a home fire erupts within a family at the intersection of nationality and religion? In Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire (2017), Parvaiz, his twin Aneeka and older sister Isma all have individual experiences of what it means to be British and Muslim in contemporary society. Whether it be Isma’s travel to and from the United States, Aneeka’s relationship with Eamonn or Parvaiz becoming “the terrorist son of a terrorist father,” each of their Muslim identities are shaped by their home in London. Parvais getting to know Farooq is a transformation in perspective of the religion he has always known from a distance, it is a reexamination of his self-image outside of a UK gaze. (Shamsie 175)

 

Related imageParvaiz and Farooq often meet up while he is in London, and on one occasion they are talking about his sister and the role of women by quoting the Quran. Parvaiz relates to his earlier life and what his Muslim identity has meant for him growing up in Britain. Shamsie writes, “religion had, since early childhood, been a space he’d vacated rather than live in it in the shadow of Isma’s superiority. But in Farooq’s company he came to see there was such a thing as an ‘emasculated version of Islam…’” (133). The author’s use of imagery through the words “vacated” and “live” regarding the space in life where one engages with religion depicts Parvaiz’s rejection of his older sister’s power to shape his ideas of his own Muslim identity. The word “shadow” for Parvais suggests a superficial idea of Islam that he has not fully understood until Farooq introduces the notion of Islam in Britain as “emasculated” (133).

Imagery allows the reader to see how Parvaiz has understood himself in the past as he begins to evolve his own ideas in “Farooq’s company” (133). The image of vacating a space within his Muslim identity and entering a newly discovered one that is more radical gives him room to change according to the beliefs he has about women. In this scene, Shamsie makes it clear that being British and Muslim is an intersection that Parvaiz has been unable to fully grasp. The version of his religion that has been the default in his home does not align with the ideals he is developing and creating in the presence of a significant figure outside of his family.

What’s being illustrated is not simply how Parvais lives as a Muslim person within British society, but rather the way he chooses to accept or deny parts of a Muslim identity that is normalized within the British society he is raised in. 

B3

Works Cited

Shamsie, Kamila. Home Fire. New York, Riverhead Books, 2017

 

 

Can You be Both Muslim and British?

Ziauddin Yousafzai, an educational activist, stated this remarkable quote, “I have multiple identities. I’m British. I’m Pakistani. I’m a Muslim. I’m a writer. I’m a father. And each identity has rich overtones. So I must be careful to look at your identity, and that of others, in the same way.” The novel, Home Fire (2017), by Kamila Shamsie, also explores the multiple identities of humans.

The first 183 pages of the novel, Home Fire, takes us through the perspectives of Isma, Aneeka, Eammon, then Parvaiz. The story is set in London where Isma is the older sister of twins, Aneeka and Parvaiz. Having lost their both their parents, one whom was seen as a terrorist by Britain (the father), we see the different paths these characters life takes them on and the intersection of their Muslim and British identities. Isma takes off to America to further her education while Aneeka is attending Law school in London on a full scholarship, and Parvaiz leaves to Syria under the influence of Farooq, a man who claims he can teach him more about his father but later shows to be false. More Specifically, I will focus on Aneeka who is dating Eamonn, the Secretary of the State’s son, and how her multiple identities, Women, British, and Muslim, oppose each other in existing in Britain.

On page 72, Aneeka is staying over at Eamonn’s apartment where they were previously having sex, and a few hours later, it is time for her to pray according to her Muslim religion. Shamsie writes, “He should have left immediately, but he couldn’t help watching this woman, this stranger, prostrating herself to God in the room where she’d been down on her knees for a very different purpose just hours earlier” (72). Shamise uses imagery to display different perspectives of Aneeka based on her different identities and how they are at odds.

The quote produces effects of imagery because words such as “this woman,this stranger” paints a picture of Aneeka being someone Eamonn doesn’t know despite that being his girlfriend. She is “prostrating herself to God” showing us that she is praying, but that image is contrasted with the earlier actions of her being, “down on her knew for a very different purpose just hours ago.” The words, “This woman, this stranger,” implies that Aneeka is not someone Eammon knows. Painting a picture of someone different then who he has been with a few hours prior. The images brought up by the words, “He should have left immediately,” are one of non-belonging and out of place for Eammon in the room. The reason he feels like this is because the actions of Aneeka currently playing is juxtaposed with the image of her being on her knees earlier for sexual activities.

The imagery produces these effects because it produces a juxtaposition of Aneeka being a woman and having sex to her being Muslim while living in Britain.This juxtaposition implies that these two activities can not be done or is not expected to be done by the same person, especially not in that frame of time.The connotations brought up by his uneasiness is the setting they live in, London where being Muslim is not seen as parallel to being Britain. This reveals the Women identity, Muslim, and British identity of Aneeka. It also reveals how it is not easy for all three of her identities to be seen as inter-sectional in the British society as shown by Eamonn’s surprise by her praying after having sex, calling her, “this woman, this stranger.” This Imagery illuminates the lack of and inability for Aneeka to freely intertwine and express both her gender, being Muslim, and being British.These effects produced by this imagery are important because it shows how hard it is for Aneeka integrate her different identities in everyday situations.

B3.

Works Cited

“Ziauddin Sardar.” AZQuotes.com. Wind and Fly LTD, 2019. 07 March 2019. https://www.azquotes.com/quote/1410938

Shamsie, Kamila. Home Fire. Riverhead Books, 2017.

Kamila Shamsie: Intersection of British Muslim Identity

As a child, I often paused before answering the question, “where are you from?”. I was never confident nor interested in trying to briefly summarize my Tibetan-American identity which I was still working to piece together for myself throughout my adolescence. During standardize testing, I hesitated when requested to fill-in-the-circle which best encapsulated my multicultural identity of “Asian”. Although I lacked the vocabulary and emotional maturity to articulate my thoughts, my intuition guided me to a gut feeling of wrongness. I felt reduced by a statistic which worked to devalue the individuality in my existence. In the novel Home Fire (2017), Kamila Shamsie develops scenes which successfully illuminate intersectional identities of British Muslim character Eamonn Lone.

From a young age, Eamonn develops a sense of instinctual uncertainty and defensiveness of his precarious British identity. Born into a Pakistani immigrant family, Eamonn identifies more comfortably with the predominantly white culture of Notting Hill’s upper-class. Eamonn’s father, Karamat Lone, who holds the position of British home secretary, has been accused of being an extremist by native Londoners and a traitor among London’s Muslim immigrant community. The insecurity which Eamonn feels towards his identity roots itself in ideologies of assimilation in which his father encourages the “need for British Muslims to lift themselves out of the Dark Ages” in order to dodge discrimination (Shamsie, 61).

Eamonn makes a trip to Aunty Iseems’ home outside of London after befriending Isma in Amherst, MA over the shared connection of being British Muslim abroad. Upon entering Aunty Iseems’ home, the hypersensitivity to which Eamonn feels towards the emblems of Pakistani culture decorating the walls of her home is outstanding when Eamonn observes Aunty Iseem as “determined to inhabit a stereotype” while warmly offering to fry him samosas (Shamsie, 64). Shamsie’s choice of diction when articulating Eamonn’s observation of Aunty Iseems determination to fulfill the Muslim stereotype of eating samosas suggests a rhetoric which acknowledges the act of eating samosas while being Muslim as negative. Shamsie’s choice of diction when she describes Aunty Iseems as “determined”, hints at the foolish irony of her chasing what is harmful to her. So, the determination described by Eamonn of Aunty Iseems, implies the associations of the Muslim identity as shameful, unlike the British identity. The effects of this observation, works to reveal how Eamonn prefers to claim and engage identities associated with Britishness over Muslim.

In this same interaction, Eamonn reflects on his missed experience of not knowing his “dadi” or paternal grandmother (Shamsie, 64). Eamonn’s “wishing” for a paternal grandmother reveals feelings seeking familiarity (Shamsie, 64). In conflicting interest, Eamonn stands in between his wish for further connection into aspects of the Muslim identity which don’t disturb his Britishness. Eamonn wishes to obtain a sustainable balance of both his Muslim and British identities. The significance of his observations relay the consistently shifting dynamic Earmonn faces in his intersectional identity. Eamonn will always shift between identities because that is the nature of an intersectionality.

B3

Works Cited

Shamsie, Kamila. Home Fire. Riverhead Books, 2017.

Struggling to Breathe

What happens when you feel yourself being split between two worlds? Do you pick one or opt to transition between both for the rest of your life? In Kamila Shamsie’s 2017 novel “Home Fire”, she sheds light on young British Muslims trying to find their identities in a society that is telling them to hide their Muslim side. Parvaiz, the sole brother of the Pasha siblings, has always felt like he was in the shadow of his sisters. So when ISIS recruitment soldier Farooq finds him and fills his mind with with prospects of greatness and a sense of purpose, Parvaiz becomes torn between two worlds. Through the use of personification Shamsie encapsulates this conflict between his Muslim and British identity. 

Farooq shows Parvaiz pictures of men by the Euphrates river with promises of the caliphate being a paradise for muslims. All this newfound knowledge and temptations of belonging flip a switch in Parvaiz. The narrator states “increasingly his lungs did not know how to breathe the air of London”(Shamsie 150) followed by Farooq asking him numerous questions wondering how he could want to stay in a country that limits his freedom. The personification of the lungs being the things breathing instead of Parvaiz allow for a sort of separation between himself and his organ; this fuels the separation he has been feeling through the entirety of the novel. Here Parvaiz’s lungs appear to be in distress considering they can no longer breathe this “London air”. Lungs are vital organs we can’t live without; it’s simple if you can’t breathe you eventually die. By personifying the lungs as being a thing that’s slowly suffocating, Shamsie allows us to see the extent of Parvaiz’s distain for his currently life in London. It’s not just a simple dislike for his current living situation, but something that is equivalent to physically hurting or killing him. Suffocating is a slow and painful process that will turn deadly if not treated properly. Farooq tries to offer a “treatment” by persuading him to accompany him to the caliphate. Considering the physical and mental pain Parvaiz is experiencing it was no surprise he took Farooq up on his offer. 

By stating his lungs are suffocating due to the London air, we can interpret Parvaiz is beginning to resent his “London side”. After seeing a place where everyone embraced being Muslim in what appeared to be a brotherhood of men, his lungs began to yearn for the “liberating” smell of the caliphate air. It is here we see the shift from a British-Muslim to simply Muslim. It leaves us to wonder, why must he throw away one identity in order to embrace another? 

 

Works Cited:

Shamsie, Kamila. Home Fire. Riverhead Books, 2017.

It’s Your Fault

Image result for muslim assimilationMuslims in Britain can find it difficult to be accepted for who they really are. They may feel forced to lose apart of themselves and their culture due to the expectations of others in society. The novel Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (2017), an award winning writer and novelist, does a good job of depicting how some Muslims are often treated, and the hardships they have to face because of practicing their religion. The book first introduces readers to a woman named Isma who is traveling through customs but gets taken into custody by the police; she is seen as a threat due to her hijab and religious beliefs. Eventually she makes it through customs and acclimates herself in  Massachusetts where she casually has coffee with a man named Eamonn, who is the son of a politician named Karamat Lone. Eamonn expresses to Isma that he left London so that he could escape from the drama associated with his fathers beliefs on Muslim practices.

Later on in the novel there is a scene where Eamonn watches a video of his dad presenting his views to a group of Muslim students, on how they needed to live their lives in order to thrive in London he tells the students “Don’t set yourself apart in the way you dress, the way you think, the outdated codes of behavior you cling to, the ideologies to which you attach your loyalties. Because if you do, you will be treated differently–not because of racism though that does still exist, but because you insist on your difference from everyone else in the multiethnic, multitudinous United Kingdom of ours” (Shamsie 90). This quote communicates to readers that Karamat does count his Muslim culture as a part of his identity. But it also displays that he feels he along with the other students, that he refers to as “you”, need to hide parts of their religious practices in order to prevent receiving backlash from society. Karamat’s use of the word “you” makes readers understand that this topic is very important to him because he doesn’t just generalize the students into one group. He instead tries to communicate with the students on a level that directly speaks to each person even though he is speaking to a large group. Throughout the entire speech Karamat referred to the students using the pronoun “you” by doing so he individually engages each student in his conversations, and blames them for being the reason why they as Muslims are treated so poorly. Karamat communicated to each student that unless they assimilated they were going to suffer in society and the only person to blame would be themselves. This shows Karamat’s support of Muslims as a whole to lose their contrasting religious habits that set them apart from others in order to prosper; which suggests that a persons Muslim identity has to be outshone by their London identity. 

B3

Works Cited

Shamsie, Kamila. Home Fire. Riverhead Books, 2017. 

 

 

Jigari Dost

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie is a 2017 novel depicting the journeys of several contemporary characters through living as a Muslim in the 21st century. The novel thus far has followed the characters of Isma, Eamonn, and Parvaiz as they navigate the intersections between their Muslim and British identities. In the novel, Parvaiz has been recruited into ISIS by Farooq, an individual who he encounters in his London neighborhood. Farooq allured Parvaiz with his claims of the equity that joining ISIS would provide him, and upon his arrival in Istanbul, Parvaiz appreciated the beauty of the sky-high minarets and general atmosphere of his new environment. However, upon being exposed to the brutality of life as a recruit, he develops a desire to return to his home in England. All the while, his sister Aneeka worries profusely about Parvaiz, while Isma wants no part of her brother’s life. Parvaiz’s section of the novel concludes with his approaching the British consulate in an attempt to secure a pass to England.

On page 137, Parvaiz describes his relationship with Farooq: “Parvaiz sipped the tea — too weak — and looked around the flat, trying to find any further clues to his yaar’s life. The Urdu word came closer than ‘friend’ to explaining how he thought of Farooq. Or even better, jigari dost — a friendship so deep that it was lodged within you, could not be cut out without leaving a profound, perhaps fatal, wound.” By using the phrase “jigari dost,” Parvaiz evokes a feeling of intimacy and connection that is partially incomprehensible to the reader. Presumably, the reader of the novel does not know Urdu, and thus this phrase is not familiar to them. By using a non-English phrase to define Parvaiz’s perception of Farooq, Shamsie is defining Parvaiz’s perception of Farooq as something that can not be readily understood by the reader, as the language itself is not readily understood by the reader. The use of an non-English phrase further signifies Parvaiz’s internal transition to defining himself as more Muslim than British by creating a divide between the reader’s understanding of Parvaiz’s British life and his life in ISIS. This transition, of course, is defined by the radicalized Farooq, and should not be interpreted to indicate that a Muslim identity is synonymous with a terrorist affiliation or that a Muslim identity is incompatible with a British identity. Parvaiz’s perception of Farooq as a friend that “could not be cut out without leaving a profound, perhaps fatal wound” however, enforces that Farooq is the primary factor that is defining Parvaiz’s identity at this point in the novel. This effect is significant because it shows that Farooq is tempting Parvaiz to entirely discard all elements of his identity that do not fit within the expectations of his group. Specifically, we can see that Parvaiz feels pressured by Farooq to discard his British identity. Parvaiz feels, as a result of Farooq’s guidance, that his British identity is incompatible with his Muslim identity, and therefore, it must be discarded.

B3

Works Cited

Shamsie, Kamila. Home Fire. Riverhead Books, 2017.

Two Identities, One Decision B3

In the novel Home Fire (2017) by Kamila Shamsie, all the characters have an internal conflict with their British and Muslim identities. Parvaiz, is conflicted with his identity, as he begins to learn about his father. He never knew his father, so when he learns about him, he wants to be just like him, he sees him as a hero that fought for Iraq; his country. He believes that by learning more about his father, he will be more connected with him and his Muslim identity would be more prominent.

Image result for home fire

Shamsie states, “Muslim men need to be detained, harassed, pressed against the ground with a heel on our throat,” (135).  The quote uses imagery to represent how Muslim men are treated in Britain. Muslim men are mistakenly viewed as a threat. The quote does not explain Parvaiz’s experience as a Muslim man in Britain, but it does explain how he feels. He did not understand, until he started to learn about his father, Adil Pasha. Adil Pasha was not talked about in Parvaiz’s family, they avoided bringing him up. To Parvaiz’s family, Adil willingly left them to return to Islam to fight, which resulted to him being labeled as a terrorist in Britain, preventing him from coming back home to his family. That was the version Parvaiz grew up knowing until he met Farooq, a young Muslim man that told him stories of the war and the experiences both of their father’s had.

Image result for muslim identity

From Farooq’s stories, Parvaiz uncovered that his father was not wrong for leaving. Farooq explained that Britain is not welcoming to migrants and that Islam is because there is no differentiating between race, class, and skin color. In Islam everyone is accepted and important, not ignored. Farooq put this idea in Parvaiz’s head. Since Britain could do nothing for him, he should put his energy elsewhere, such as Islam, a country he belongs to and that cares about him. This is like what his father did, because he left everything back in Britain, such as his family to go to war in Islam because he believed in something bigger than himself: his country. The quote emphasis this bigger picture, which is belonging and acceptance. Parvaiz began to only consider himself Muslim. His Muslim identity and understanding his father were not emphasized enough, so now that he has the chance to learn more, he is going to take advantage of it.

Works Cited

Shamsie, Kamila. Home Fire. Riverhead Books, 2017.