The Arab of the Future. Vol. 4: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1987–1992

Metropolitan: Holt. Nov. 2019. 288p. ISBN 9781250150660. pap. $30. MEMOIR
The fourth volume of French Syrian cartoonist Sattouf’s acclaimed memoir (after The Arab of the Future. Vol. 3: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1985–1987) follows the author through his teenage years. His parents’ fractured relationship has worsened, with his father becoming more religiously devout after taking a job in Saudi Arabia, while his mother lives in France with the children. At this time, adolescent Sattouf is fantasizing about girls both real and imagined. His mother is diagnosed with cancer but refuses to tell his father. As she’s undergoing chemotherapy, his father returns to France, more upset than before he left. Attending middle school, Sattouf encounters racism against Arabs for the first time, making him question his own identity as neither completely French nor Arab. After losing his job in Saudi Arabia, his father obtains another in Damascus, and there’s one more terrible fight. Eventually, his father goes back to France, with intentions to patch things up and stay, which winds up tearing the family apart even further.
VERDICT The difficulty of growing up in a culture you feel no commonality with is powerful in this volume and will definitely resonate with some readers. Others will be touched by the humor amid the drama. A must for most collections, especially those with the previous books in the series.
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