The Lockdown – Day-Fifty-Five

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Today’s note is about the graphical novels, which have focused the pandemics. Discussing such books, the writer mentions a novel ‘The Junior Disease Detectives: Operation Outbreak’, published to educate youth about influenza, especially related to human infections with flu viruses that normally circulate in swine or pigs, and suggests its translation in Sindhi language.  

Zaffar Junejo

My friend Mukhtiar Mallah has rightly pointed out that technically there is no lockdown. And he assumed that I have voluntarily kept away myself from the rush and availed the opportunity to write something useful. He is correct. But I carried with the lockdown title, because it served me as the lead banner, and I regularly write under it.

Again, I am here before your eyes with the same title, however, the matter is about the Pandemic and graphical novels. And trust me I would not talk about graphical novels and Sindhi publishers. However, one day, I would write in detail a friendly note about the Sindhi world of publishing. Surely it would be a suggestive write up.

Today’s note is about the graphical novels, which have focused the pandemics. But allow me to tell you how I was introduced to graphical novels. Perhaps in 2013, Dr. Isa Daudpota introduced me to Apostolos Dxiadis’ novel ‘Uncle Petros and Goldbach’s Conjecture.’ I had reviewed it for Affair Magazine. The novel narrated the story of a sensitive young man’s acquaintance with his secluded uncle, who is in search to solve – Goldbach’s Conjecture, ‘every even number greater than two is the sum of two primes.’ The novel explored mathematical problems and some current history of mathematics as a subject.

Remember, Uncle Petros and Goldbach’s Conjecture was not a graphical novel. But through it, I came to know the author’s novel, ‘Logicomix.’ It was a graphical novel. I downloaded its PDF version, however, Irfan Ahmed Khan handed me its hard copy. It was an excellent work of art and imagination. Its content and layout were excellent. I also reviewed it and the same was published in The News, Karachi with the title of ‘Logic and Madness, Tale of logical certainty in mathematics or a serious biography of Bertrand Russell in comic graphics’ (refer: https://jang.com.pk/thenews//jan2013-weekly/nos-13-01-2013/lit.htm#2). In sum, the novel portrayed Bertrand Russell’s life journey through the set goals and struggles for their realization. The companion in a search for truth was Ludwig, Alfred North Whitehead, G. E. Moore, David Hilbert, Gottlob Frege, Wittgenstein Henri Poincare, Kurt Godel, Alan Turing, and Georg Cantor. Later, I bought and read Khalid Husseini’s ‘The Kite Runner.’ Elsa, Maghana, and Sudharath liked it very much.

Till now most of the people mix ‘comic novel and graphical novel’ and generally it is believed that it is the same thing. However, technically there is a difference. Generally, comics are reserved for children and usually published in periodicals. On the other hand, graphic novels contain an extended comic story for a serious audience, and it is published in paperback or hardbound.

In the present times, I would suggest three graphical novels- all of them are focused on pandemics. The first two are ‘The 1918 Flu Pandemic’ and ‘Fever Year: The Killer Flu of 1918’. Both talked about the outbreak of an unknown influenza virus that killed millions of people around the world. Both showed how Spanish Flue was the deadliest pandemic in human history.

The last one was ‘The Junior Disease Detectives: Operation Outbreak.’ It was released on 28th August 2019 by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).

It is a graphical novel. Its audiences are young people. It highlights CDC’s challenging life disease detective work and encourages young people to opt for a career in Science and Technology subjects.

This novel was created to educate youth about influenza, especially related to human infections with flu viruses that normally circulate in swine or pigs. Last week, I downloaded and read it. Let me share its summary with you – what I have grasped. The novel’s story revolved around a group of young people, who had participated in a state agricultural fair, and also attended the CDC Museum Disease Detective Camp. Suddenly, one of their friends named Eddie became sick after visiting the fair. Thus, his friends applied a newly acquired disease pinpointing mechanism through experts of public and animal health. Finally, the team and officers understood that how their friend became sick.

The graphic novel step by step investigated the ‘variant influenza’ case.  It revealed that their friend Eddie was exposed to a virus-infected pig at the time of the agricultural fair. The novel was mingled with educational activities. The incorporated activities help the readers in ‘problem-based skill development,’ such as ‘collective performance,’ ‘identifying patterns,’ and ‘decision-making.’

The novel gave an understanding that how overall health programs should be formulated and implemented considering human, animal, and environmental issues. It also highlighted how various departments have to work together. The novel also talked about flu viruses, how they adapt themselves, how they spread, and what Zoonic influenza viruses was – flu viruses that spread between animals and people. Another aspect of the novel talked in detail about the roles and responsibilities of various professionals and their skills. The reader also knows about ‘disease-classification – transmission-mechanism.’ Its understanding helps the readers to know what is ‘revise data-driven decision’ when disease leads towards endemic and then pandemic.

The novel operated in a detective manner, readers unpack the story from the situation that they know about Eddie and his illness, and they investigated how disease outbreak. In the whole novel, readers learn the usage of ‘who (person), what (place), and when (time/date). The readers also learn about the diseases’ clinical signs and symptoms.

I am of the view that reading this novel would help understand, resemble, and take precautionary measures about present pandemic – Coronavirus. I would also say that the present graphical novel should be considered a model, and our writes should transliterate into the Sindhi language.

I would recommend you ‘The Junior Disease Detectives: Operation Outbreak’ as Eid-Reading. You might get its PDF version if you want to read it – Please email.

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Zaffar Junejo is Ph.D. Scholar at Department of History, University of Malaya Kuala Lumpur – The areas of interest: Peasants’ Studies, Social History, Cultural History, Colonial and Post-Colonial Periods.
For author’s previous blog click on Sindh Courier

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