Esther’s Notebooks

Pantheon. Jan. 2023. 168p. tr. from French by Sam Taylor. ISBN 9780593316924. $30. BIOG
Growing up is complicated, painful, and weird as seen through the eyes of a French 10-year-old girl named Esther. Over the course of three years, Esther shares glimpses of her everyday life attending private school in Paris with a mix of naivete, casual cruelty, and hormone-induced awkwardness. Experiencing flashes of sexual harassment, misogyny, and xenophobia without understanding the deeper meaning behind these incidents, Esther serves as an unwitting narrator to things that would outrage a more experienced person. Sattouf (The Arab of the Future) uses his pen to illustrate a dark satire of life as told to him by a young girl. The cartoon seems loose and light-hearted at first glance, but the ugly underbelly of growing up in the French political landscape appears beneath the ink. This has been adapted as an animated series in France, where it was originally published.
VERDICT Readers seeking to experience a strange, yet at its core, familiar slice of life in a country steeped in multiple cultures will enjoy the perspective provided in this collection.
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