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The Birthday RiotsReview - The Birthday Riots
by Nabiel Kanan
NBM Publishing, 2001
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Dec 30th 2001 (Volume 5, Issue 52)

Kanan's book, set in Britain, tells the complex tale of an election for the mayor of London, a group of traveling gypsies, Max Collins, who is working in the campaign of one of the candidates to be mayor, and his fourteen-year-old daughter Natalie Collins, who is starting to become politically aware.

For the most part, this is a realistic story set in the present day. The central figure is Natalie, whose fifteenth birthday is approaching, and she is starting to realize that her father lacks the qualities she thought he had. As with most of Kanan's characters, Natalie's face is mostly expressionless; the main way to tell her feelings is to look at her eyes carefully. She remembers the promise her father made to her when she was a little girl to build a tree house, but he sacrifices his promise to his daughter for his career. Natalie feels betrayed, and she sees how her father is willing to sacrifice principles for power. Soon she is siding with the gypsies and their protests about their treatment by local government.

There's a mystical element to the story, concerning the ancestral land of the gypsies where they belong, that provides a twist in the plot making it more than a banal tale of a girl's disillusionment in her father. But that part of the story is not really central; the heart of the story is about the girl's growth, and her father's disappointment in himself and his knowledge that his daughter is right.

Although The Birthday Riots is more complex than his book The Lost Girl, Kanan's previous publication with NBM Publishing, ultimately the story is disappointing. It's no great revelation that people in politics sacrifice their principles, and Kanan's characters are not very interesting. I suspect that he needs to find a different kind of story better matched to his artwork; it may be that focusing on the world of children and teens works best with his style. The drawing is heavier and more detailed here than it was in The Lost Girl, but it still does not seem to be best suited to social commentary. Kanan's ability to convey the subtlety of facial expressions, especially uncertainty, curiosity and questioning, works very well with young characters; he conveys sensuality in his simple line drawing. I look forward to Kanan's forthcoming work, and hope that he will find a story that better suits his style.

© 2001 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.

Links:
NBM Publishing Web Site, and listing for The Birthday Riots.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can play a greater role in public life. He is available to give talks on many philosophical or controversial issues in mental health.


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