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‘I Escaped a Chinese Internment Camp’ GN (review)

Adapted by Anthony Del Col
Art by Fahmida Azim
Published by New Friday /
Lev Gleason Publications

 

Winner of the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Illustrated Reporting, I Escaped a Chinese Internment Camp, is a firsthand account by Zumrat Dawut wherein she describes being basically abducted into a Chinese internment camp due to her Muslim faith drawing suspicion and ire from the Chinese Government.

Drawn from interviews which have been condensed and edited by Anthony Del Col with illustrations by Fahmida Azim, Dawut’s story is unfortunately one that seems to be happening a lot in China.

Uyghurs are a Chinese ethnic minority (which Dawut counts herself a member of) found in the Northwest region of the Nation who face immense persecution. From labor camps to forced sterilization and worse, it is alarming. The problem with a big human rights crisis is that it can be hard to see the humanity within it as opposed to just numbers.

This makes Dawut’s personal tale all the more striking.

Dawut and her husband simply are living a quiet and peaceful life, but by being who she is, she gets put in an internment camp for a bit over 60 days. It is indicated that her husband’s links with Pakistan and threats of going to the media get the government to relent and send her home, but only after she signs a ton of forms, “Admitting,” she has extremist views and agrees she needs to take part in programs and events designed to make her a better citizen.

Further civil rights abuses occur as she remains under heavy surveillance and Government control, but as the title indicates (so it isn’t really a spoiler to reveal), Dawut eventually escapes to freedom.

It is admirable that Zumrat Dawut has been willing to discuss everything that happened to her, despite continuing threats from the Chinese Government and certain relatives refusing to speak with or even acknowledge her. Fahmida Azim’s illustrations of Dawut’s story are superb, imparting the quiet moments with a gentle joy and the scary times a stark and imposing appearance. With Anthony Del Col highlighting key points that be sure readers see the whole picture of just how bad these human rights abuses Dawut and others have faced (and continue to suffer), it is a brief but impactful read.

I Escaped a Chinese Internment Camp, tells a story that many efforts have been made to silence or have ignored by the World-at-Large. The entire creative team of this book should be applauded for telling this story, and telling it fantastically.

5 out of 5 stars.

 

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