Comparing Palestine and Pyongyang

Journalism in today’s day and age is usually centered around what’s fact and what is fiction. Simplistic, almost entertaining news outlets tend to be backlashed due to their almost lack of professionalism. Although not as reputable, I tend to head for those sites first to get my simple news for the day. I go to sites like Buzzfeed, who’s staff write both hard hitting stories along with entertaining posts and quizzes, rather than world-renowned media sources such as BBC World News or the New York Times. I never noticed this preference I had before reading Palestine and Pyongyang. In both pieces of text, I focused on each individual chapter, or vignette, as their own individual story. Like Ian Bogost says in his book How to Do Things with Videogames, vignettes “offer detailed, sordid glimpses into the lives of residents…[and] characterizes an experience.” Both Palestine and Pyongyang vividly portray this idea in each piece of the text. However, Joe Sacco utilizes graphic, by both meanings, interviews of people living in Palestine in the early 1990s, a time of conflict that still continues between them and the Israelis. In contrast, Guy Delisle’s vignettes are simplistic narratives, almost like a day in the life, of his time in Pyongyang. Both, although journalistic works, portray their experiences in a way that put their readers in places that are inaccessible to the Western world.

Throughout Palestine, the detailed interviews with those living their connect the reader both to the situation and to the setting itself. Although in black and white, the eye-catching details of each and every page, are chaotic but capture the reader’s attention in a way that I have never experienced reading a book. I actually really struggled reading this text. I felt lost in the pages, unsure where to go and overwhelmed with the frames and flow that I was not used to from the other texts I have been trained to consume. However, the vignettes helped with this fear of the complex text. I wanted to hear each story Sacco had to tell and finishing each vignette seemed as I had accomplished my goal. I learned from each individual story that Palestine told. It broke the fifth wall that most journalism stories seem to put up to separate the individual from feeling the pain and suffering that the victims of the world’s most terrifying sites. The complexity of each vignette allowed me as a reader to become invested in the story but not too invested; it was just enough to invoke my emotion.

Pyongyang, in its simple style with short narrative structure, still pulled me into the story and allowed me to connect with the narrative on a more personal level. The structure followed the day in the life of an animator working in Pyongyang. The flow of the story was simple yet the bleak but detailed illustrations truly portrayed life in this city that few have access to. Due to the lack of knowledge from this city, and country as a whole, Delisle invites readers into his life in this previously unknown world. Pyongyang invited me more into its story, even though it was not as detailed, because of its easy to read panels with a simple structure reminiscent of other graphic novels I have read. I felt more welcomed to read this text and I did not struggle through the details. Each individual vignette told a story, strong enough to keep me informed but not too much to make me want more.

Both of the texts utilized vignettes to tell individual stories within their journalistic narratives. Although both Palestine and Pyongyang told captivating stories their readers may not have any background on, the authors approached their texts with two very different styles. The complexity of Palestine and the simplicity of Pyongyang challenged the reader’s to become invested in each part, each vignette, of the complete piece. My struggle with Palestine was not unique but my strong preference to Pyongyang stood out in class discussions. Although I started off with a strong aversion to Palestine, I have learned to appreciate it that it told and I am proud of myself for getting through the tough text and really enjoying the stories that it told. In the world of “fake news,” I found it refreshing to read both of these texts, to gain a first person response from people who actually experienced these unseen places. Both books combined visual and textual evidence that captured the essence of the story needed to be told. It pulled the reader in. I was able to feel like I was really there, consumed into each vignette. Journalism can be hard hitting but both Palestine and Pyongyang made this work accessible to those who craved the knowledge of the unknown.