by Anaële & Delphine Hermans
“The idea came to us to make a comic that told the story of what [Anaële] experienced during the ten months we spent living so far from each other, from March to December 2008.”
Anaël and Delphine Hermans are sisters from Liège, an east Belgian city close to the Dutch and German borders. In 2008, Anaël, a writer, went to work for a voluntary aid programme in Palestine – dividing her free time between her Palestinian and Israeli friends – while Delphine, an artist, remained at home. The siblings, always close, exchanged newsy letters and postcards during their ten-month separation.
Aimed at the 13 to 16 age-group (I hardly ever read titles for young people then, flukily, two together) Green Almonds is a combined graphic-epistolary memoir, simply told, of family, friendship, love, mistrust, land confiscations, violence, imprisonment, armed soldiers, checkpoints and a wall of division running along the border and through parts of the Israeli occupied State of Palestine.
“Dear Nan, So, you made it? In reading your letter, I could picture everything. I tried to draw you there.”
From her apartment in Bethlehem, Anaële travels around the country, sometimes crossing the border to spend evenings relaxing with her Israeli companions, returning to experiences like visiting the overpopulated Dheisheh refugee camp and assisting with fruit picking. The book is a personal glimpse into a complex situation, seen through the eyes of a naive young woman who discovers a country, makes friends, falls in love and is confronted with the plight of the inhabitants. Her story is enriched by her sister’s uncomplicated and poignant drawings.
First published in France in 2011, then rereleased by Lion Forge in 2018, Green Almonds: Letters from Palestine received the Doctors Without Borders Award for best travel diary highlighting the living conditions of populations in precarious situations when it was first issued.
“…it’s hard to reconcile these funny, talkative Palestinian women with the women I meet in the street. Though this is clearly not my world, it’s charming, so welcoming, that I can’t help but enjoy it.”
Many thanks to Lion Forge for providing a review copy of this title.