The Power of Narrative Comics

FP’s Mindy Kay Bricker talks to writer Alia Malek and alternative cartoonist Josh Neufeld about telling the story of the Syrian refugee crisis through a comic.


Each of the millions of Syrian refugees who have fled their brutalized, unrecognizable homeland did so for uniquely personal reasons — the regime bombarding cities, the Islamic State threatening a return to the dark ages, the loss of jobs in a crumbling economy. Yet their quests cohered around one purpose: They all wanted better lives.

In the January/February issue of Foreign Policy, the odyssey of several refugees is presented in the form of a nonfiction comic, drawn by Josh Neufeld and based on firsthand reporting gathered by journalist Alia Malek.

Showing what happens when strangers are thrown together by adversity — how desperate alliances form and dissolve — the article, titled “The Road to Germany: $2400,” is a diary of an exodus from a war zone to a hopeful, if uncertain, future in the West.

In this episode of The Backstory, FP Executive Editor of Print Mindy Kay Bricker talks to Malek and Neufeld about how they collaborated to tell the story of the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

About the participants:

Alia Malek is a journalist, civil rights lawyer, and author of A Country Called Amreeka: Roots, American Stories. She is currently a Puffin Foundation writing fellow at the Nation Institute and at work on a book about Syria. Follow her on Twitter: @AliaMalek.

Josh Neufeld  is a nonfiction cartoonist. His graphic novel A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge, documents lives of ordinary New Orleanians in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Follow him on Twitter: @joshneufeld.

Mindy Kay Bricker is the Executive Editor of Print at Foreign Policy. Follow her on Twitter: @mindykaybricker.

Subscribe to The Backstory podcast and other FP podcasts on iTunes here.

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