"Journalism" by Joe Sacco (Metropolitan Books)
Sacco is known for his in depth work in Palestine and Bosnia, but this collection of shorter works allows readers to get a wider view of the grim world that Sacco has chosen to document.
In the Caucasus, Sacco spends time with Chechen women trying to survive the refugee camps which Russia is eager to force out in order to declare the problem solved. Sacco's narrative darts between the reality of life in these camps and the nightmare of the experiences that brought the women there, adding up to a harrowing, depressing and angering piece.
In his Iraq pieces, Sacco documents the trials of American soldiers and their harsh lot in wartime, as well as that of torture survivors attempting to sue Donald Rumsfeld for the horrific treatment.
Sacco goes to his native country, Malta, to investigate the influx of African refugees that has created a nightmare of crowding and animosity between the desperate people trying to escape horror and death, and the small country that cannot handle what has descended upon them.
In India, Sacco visits lower caste villages that are beyond bleak. So poor and beaten down are these people that they have given up caring about any human rights they deserve. They survive by raiding rat holes filled with foraged grain. It is a shocking existence perpetuated by the corruption of the higher castes in charge.
As with any of Sacco's work, the stories he tells will make you cringe and cry, and he does this with clarity as he explains the history and context on a larger scale that leads to the horrors you witness.
It's reality as too many Americans are unaware of it, but so much of the rest of the world cannot escape. Sacco, in the tradition of the greatest journalists, is on the side of the little guy, and is determined to present the individual stories with dignity and compassion.
His success is greater than many print journalists, and his form of graphic storytelling adds layers that they could never capture. If there is one graphic novelist who should be mandatory reading in American high schools, it is Joe Sacco, an important voice beyond his chosen medium.