McCabe Displays International Graphic Novel Collection

Several graphic novels assembled by Hazlett Henderson ’17, who recently received the Newton prize for her collection, are currently being displayed at McCabe Library.
“Graphic novels are a really compelling way to tell a narrative. They’re short, but they contain a lot of information and a lot of emotion,” said Henderson.
The Newton prize is given to three Swarthmore students every year for their collection of 25 or more books assembled around a specific theme. The prize was established in 1930 in honor of Edward Newton, a Philadelphia native and businessman known for his rare book collection, who gave Swarthmore and McCabe Library the funds to continue the competition. The Newton prize includes a cash component, and it was originally intended by Newton to help fortify interest in books among students.
The collection focuses on graphic novels set in several different countries, many of which tell the stories of immigrants or of alienation. Swarthmore students can see the books on the second floor of McCabe displayed in several large cases. The books are grouped into five regions: France, North Africa, Middle East, West Africa, and the Anglophone world. Accompanying each book is a short blurb, written by Henderson, explaining the book’s inclusion.
Henderson wrote that her interest in graphic novels began as a child when her mother, a librarian, gave her a copy of Persepolis, a book depicting Marjane Satrapi’s childhood in Iran. She accumulated more of the books that would make their way into the collection during her time at Swarthmore, particularly through a French class focused on analyzing Francophone comics to understand culture.
“I took Professor Guyden-Turek’s class, and really loved some of the books we read, and had to buy them for the course. I was in France the following summer, and I found some other volumes of a book we read and some similar graphic novels, and bought them.” said Henderson.
Henderson’s experiences studying abroad helped her further gather books that emerged into a cohesive compilation centered around identity and belonging.
“They all deal with themes of dislocation, whether that’s in a country or actual dislocation. That came partially out of the class, which focused on North Africa and Francophone traditions. The second wave came out of being in Morocco in a program focused on migration. I did a final project that focused on graphic novels, so I read a lot of books that fit that theme.”
Roberto Vargas, the main project supervisor of the award, noted the committee was impressed with the way Henderson captured the spirit of her collection in her essay and bt how she offered insight into its specific details.
Just as her graphic novel collection [does], her essay reflected the effects that images and words on a paper can have on people. She wrote about the way she acquired her graphic novels, how she crossed borders to do so, and what it meant to fail at acquiring some of the books she desired,” said Vargas.
Henderson named Arab of the Future as one of her favorite books featured in the collection, which she noted she highlighted despite the fact that French Professor Guyden-Turek doesn’t like it.
“It beautifully portrays the vision of Riad Sattour’s childhood through Libya, Syria, and France. There’s a humor component to it that I find really appealing. It’s also cute and has nice cartoons.”
Henderson offered some reflection upon the ways in which owning physical books continues to be a significant and valuable endeavor.
“Even though books and print media in general are becoming less and less popular, asking people to own or buy physical books is important in that it’s giving money to a publisher and showing that you think that there’s value in writing and in reading. There is also an aesthetic value to owning physical books.”
Vargas explained that the Newton award is meant to encourage thoughtful reflection among students about the books they’ve read and own, rather than encouraging the commodification of impressive or expensive books.  
I think the significance about this specific award is that it asks the students to think about the books they own, to think about their possessions, and to try to meaningfully make correlations between them that go beyond the subject matter,” said Vargas.
Rather than being purely academic, the collection is an opportunity for students to create something more personal and meaningful.
“There is a temptation to view a book collection as a reflection of one’s own intellectual capacities, but this is the opposite of what we hope this award encourages. Rather, we want students to think and reflect on the books they own as ways to tell their histories—like a biography through the eyes of their books,” said Vargas.

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