Book Prize Recipient, 2010

Joe Sacco is one of the world’s foremost cartoonists and the creator of war-reportage comics. He is the author of a number of illustrated books including Palestine, which received the American Book Award, Fixer and Safe Area Gorazde.

In 2001, while on a reporting trip to Gaza he learned of a large-scale killing of Palestinians during the Suez crisis in the town of Khan Younis, near the Egyptian border, in November 1956.

Determined to uncover the truth behind this forgotten killing, and one that took place in the neighboring town of Rafah a few days later, he returned twice more to Gaza to record the stories of Palestinian eyewitnesses to the tragedies. Immersing himself in the daily life of Gaza, he gradually came to understand how those incidents — footnotes to a long history of killing in the area — could contain the seeds of grief and anger that shape present-day events.

Footnotes in Gaza is his unique account of what occurred — cold-blooded massacre or a series of dreadful mistakes — that November day and of how competing truths have come to define an intractable conflict. Combining oral history, investigative reporting and brilliantly rendered illustrations, Sacco moves seamlessly from the present-day to the past and back again. In so doing he not only uncovers a forgotten crime, but also vividly reveals the almost unbearably difficult reality of life in contemporary Gaza. Patrick Cockburn, writing in The New York Times Book Review, described Footnotes in Gaza as a “gripping, important book” and “one of the few contemporary works on the Israeli-Palestinian struggle likely to outlive the era in which they were written.”

The judges for The Ridenhour Book Prize honor Sacco’s tenacious reporting and recognize Footnotes in Gaza as a work of profound social significance, one that explores the complex continuum of history. At a time when peace in the Middle East has never seemed more elusive, Sacco’s illustrations bear witness to the lives of those who are trapped by the conflict. This marks the first time that the Ridenhour judges have awarded the prize to an illustrated book, but in the words of David Hajdu in The New York Review of Books, “There is virtually no precedent for what he does…. Sacco is legitimately unique.”

More 2010 Prize Winners

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