In this brilliantly original debut graphic novel that imagines a fantastical Cairo where wishes really do come true, Deena Mohamed brings to life a cast of characters whose struggles and triumphs are heartbreaking, inspiring, and deeply resonant.
Shubeik Lubeik—a fairy tale rhyme that means “your wish is my command” in Arabic—is the story of three people who are navigating a world where wishes are literally for sale. Mired in bureaucracy and the familiar prejudices of our world, the wishes are more likely to work as intended the more expensive they are.
Three wishes that are sold at an unassuming kiosk in Cairo link Aziza, Nour, and Shokry, changing their perspectives as well as their lives. Aziza learned early that life can be hard, but when she loses her husband and manages to procure a wish, she finds herself fighting bureaucracy and inequality for the right to have—and make—that wish. Nour is a privileged college student who secretly struggles with depression and must decide whether or not to use their wish to try to “fix” this depression, and then figure out how to do it. And, finally, Shokry must grapple with his religious convictions as he decides how to help a friend who doesn’t want to use their wish.
Although their stories are fantastical—featuring talking donkeys, dragons, and cars that can magically avoid traffic—each of these people grapples with the very real challenge of trying to make their most deeply held desires come true.
“An ambitious feat of storytelling and a historic accomplishment for Arab comic artists. No page is boring. Mohamed herself has translated her original text from Arabic into English, with occasional footnotes and asides to guide the uninitiated. Her use of intricate Arabic calligraphy to illustrate the genies (or, in Arabic, ‘djinn’) who climb out of the bottles is stunning. Above all, the panels move briskly, full of big movement and emotional pacing, including the clever use of full-bleed pages, and storytelling that zooms in and out of modern Egyptian history.” —Washington Post (cover review for “Washington Post Book World”)
“An astonishing first book by an immensely talented young artist and writer. The settings and stories cover decades of a history that is fantastical but feels familiar. Every page moves boldly with action and energy, even as the characters wrestle with internal and deeply moral conflicts. Deena Mohamed is one to watch.” —Thi Bui, author of The Best We Could Do
“A future classic that may one day be spoken of in the same breath as Craig Thompson’s Blankets, or Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis.” —The Guardian
“Brilliantly original. . . . Richly detailed. . . . Mohamed’s bold, expressive illustrations split the difference between cartoon and realism, with brightly colored details. . . . These characters’ struggles and successes are equally heartbreaking and uplifting, creating a wholly satisfying reading experience. Our wish is Mohamed’s command.” —BookPage (starred)
“[A] masterpiece. . . . While Mohamed’s narratives are memorably entertaining and particularly insightful—exploring haves versus have-nots struggles, gender inequity, police brutality—even more astounding is her fluid, sweeping art. . . . Mohamed’s stupendously dynamic visuals will prove addictive, moving all too swiftly toward a rewarding, resonating end.” —Booklist (starred)
“The book is exceptionally imaginative while also being wonderfully grounded in touching human relationships, existential quandaries, and familiar geopolitical and socio-economic dynamics. Mohamed’s art balances perfectly between cartoon and realism, powerfully conveying emotions, and her strong, clean lines gorgeously depict everything from an anguished face to an ornate bottle. . . . Mohamed has a great sense of humor, which comes out in footnotes and casual asides throughout. Immensely enjoyable.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“A powder keg of human emotions and desires, cleverly delivered by its fantastical premise. Shubeik Lubeik investigates human nature with unflinching grace, carefully thought out worldbuilding, and characters so moving that they have found a permanent place in my heart. This book makes me believe that I too could buy a wish from the corner store.” —Rhea Ewing, author of Fine: A Comic About Gender
“Mohamed builds a rich and harrowing world—and finds every place a fascinating story might be hiding.” —Mattie Lubchansky, editor of The Nib
“In Shubeik Lubeik, Deena Mohamed plays a dangerous game that revives monsters and angels from our secret wishes and dreams. A masterpiece and one of the most iconic graphic novels of North Africa, where the innocence of the past meets the nightmares of the present.” —Ahmed Naji, author of Rotten Evidence
“Shubeik Lubeik is easily the most subversive book I've read in decades! Deena Mohamed has much to say about the human condition, but she does so with effortless grace. Superb cartooning, and brimming with intelligence both emotional and intellectual—all while maintaining an incredible sense of humor—Shubeik Lubeik embodies the holy grail of comix-making that few graphic novels have ever managed to achieve. A wonderous accomplishment and important addition to the culture.” —Ganzeer, author/artist of The Solar Grid