Saturday, April 28, 2007

100 Girls

Adam Gallardo, one of our friends who has been here visiting us, is a writer who produces alternative comic books or graphic novels. He collaborates with graphic artists, one in Barcelona for example, another in Canada. His series 100 Girls has been published and now has a French version in translation.
Adam volunteered to visit one of my classes and talk about his work. For me it was a no brainer....comic books (they call them bande dessinées or BDs here) are very big. If you go into a bookstore in France you will invariably find a significant section devoted to comic books. They come in a wide variety of genres and target an equally wide range of demographics from little kids to adults. Adam's work is more for the teen and up audience, I think.
Adam came along with his wife, Melissa, who works for the Salem newspaper The Statesman Journal were she produces video clips for their web site. She also produces a local cable access television show that reviews independent films. She is also Adam's most enthusiastic promoter, one of Beth's best friends, and she studied French in university.
We decided to photocopy a two page spread from his book (you can see the kid in the foreground looking at his copy) and do a series of activities that culminated with them attempting French versions of Adam's work.
We started by generating a list of BDs that the students read as children and/or still read today. You can see the list in the background of the photo. We got the expected titles like Tintin, Lucky Luke, Gaston Lagaffe, Asterix and Obelix...I wonder how many Americans know that the Smurfs were actually a French creation, originally called Les Schtroumpfs?
Then Adam gave them an overview of the larger story in order to put the excerpt in context. Then we answered questions about vocabulary....words like "heck" and "freaked out" were examples of the kinds of questions they had.
Then we enlisted a couple of kids in doing an oral reading of the excerpt. Adam and I followed that with an oral reading of our own. We then let them get started on the their translations. To wrap up, we had a discussion of the place occupied by BDs in French culture and whether or not they were taken seriously as an art form. While there were a couple of kids who were strong advocates for the form most of the them saw the BD as just for fun. Adam and Melissa suggested three graphic novels that are examples of comics having evolve into something far more than entertainment, Maus by Art Spiegelman which treats the subject of the Holocaust, Joe Sacco's Palestine which is a first person account of a visit to Gaza and other occupied territorities, and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi which is the coming of age story of a young girl in Iran and, according to Wikipedia, is required reading for cadets at West Point University.
Later I plan on bringing in the professional French version of Adam's work so that they can compare their own work to it.
It's nice to trot out genuine real life writers and creative types for students...not everyday that they come from the other side of the Atlantic.
Thanks Adam and Missy.

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