G. Willow Wilson with art by M.K. Perker

Books Reviews G. Willow Wilson
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G. Willow Wilson with art by M.K. Perker

All Jinned up

The ?rst graphic novel by journalist G. Willow Wilson, Cairo is an irreverent yet spiritual retelling of the Aladdin story. Here, Cairenes, American martyrs, a journalist and a Jinn meet in a journey from the streets of Cairo to Undernile, the fabled river said to run deep below the Nile, in the opposite direction.

Ashraf is but a humble hash smuggler, cadging a livelihood from the crowded streets of Egypt. But when he fences a magic hookah from a mob boss (wonderfully described as a “baby-eating Nile-toad”) the mobster kidnaps Ashraf’s friend, rabble-rousing journalist Ali Jibreel.

Elsewhere in the city, a young American calling himself Shaheed (Martyr, in Arabic) discovers that the hookah he bought at an in?ated price is haunted by a Rumi-quoting Jinn named Shams. When the mob boss sends a demon after the hookah, Shams becomes hell-bent on turning Shaheed from martyr to poet-warrior.

With gritty, black-and-white illustrations by Istanbulite artist M.K. Perker, Cairo is alternately mundane and mystical. Despite bloody historic grievances, the streams of myth and storytelling are never far from the surface.

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