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9 of 1: Boston College - Book Review
9 of 1: a window to the world
By Deirdre Fulton
Published: Thursday, October 9, 2003
When history books - the kinds kids will read in middle and high school classrooms that never seem to change - are written to include the events of the past three years, they will be confusing texts.
They will tackle an American foreign policy that morphed in the hands of the United States and the world community. They will explain international relations that shifted, solidified and shattered at a breakneck pace. They will tell the story of many cultures that converged to create a common history, one made up of disparate opinions and beliefs, full of grudges and long-harbored resentments, and looking forward to a more hopeful future.
Students who are tired of dry and dense textbook passages - both in the future and in todayís classrooms - should be encouraged to pick up Oliver Chinís graphic novel "9 of 1: A Window to the World." The 112-page book, written in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, shows some of those different stories in an effort to reconcile the terrible events with a more comprehensive picture of the world that produced them.
Chin starts off well by leaving the storytelling to the generation who will remember those days for the longest time. A high school teacher at the fictional James Madison High School (set in the real town of Fremont, Calif.) realizes that typical social studies curriculum will not suffice in the days following the attacks.
Instead, recognizing the multicultural nature of todayís world - and how that diversity, in its own way, led to the attacks - he asks his students to interview someone they have never met before, and tell his or her story. The book is made up of nine of those stories, which really become 18 as the cultures of both the students and their subjects are highlighted.
Viewpoints from Israel, Egypt, China, Japan, Russia, Afghanistan and the United States are all represented in the novel. Interview subjects talk candidly - and in everyday language - about opression, prejudice, starvation and exploitation. In many of the stories, The U.S. played some role in the devestation described. Certain sections of the book serve as an eye-opening reminder of American mistakes, such as Japanese internment, intervention in the Phillipines and a well-rendered comparison of Iraq under Saddam Hussein and the U.S. under John Ashcroft.
Luckily, because the stories are told by people who experienced them directly, Chin never sounds like a left-wing preacher. Instead, he does a good job of contrasting points of view (he puts the interview with the Israeli directly before the interview with the Egyptian) to show how international conflicts arise - and that there are always two (or more) sides to a story.
"But the reality always can be disputed," one interviewee from Isreal says, illustrating the point Chin seems to make in his book. "depending on which way you look at it."
The stories fit together like a patchwork and the illustrations serve as cohesion running through the drastically different words. Because the interviews involve so much history, the illustrations are much like those one might find in a textbook - maps and portraits of famous leaders. Maps and diagrams make the novel seem even more like a viable alternative, or at least a companion, to typical textbooks.
There is also a smattering of real photographs, something Chin could have integrated into his text even more.
Though the words stand out more than the images, the combination of both in this "edu-comic," as one reviewer called it, is a great way to engage the readers Chin wants to reach. The book isnít necessarily geared toward college or adult readers, but anyone wanting to understand the medly of voices that amounts to the history that is evolving daily should read this novel.