The story of one undocumented immigrant’s journey, told by the people who employ him, feed him, and report on him
The Strange follows an unnamed, undocumented immigrant who tries to forge a new life in a Western country where he doesn’t speak the language. The story is deftly told through myriad viewpoints, as each narrator recounts a situation in which they crossed paths with the newly arrived foreigner. Many of the people he meets are suspicious of his unfamiliar background, or of the unusual language they do not understand. By employing this third-person narrative structure, Jérôme Ruillier masterfully portrays the complex plight of immigrants and the vulnerability of being undocumented. The Strange shows one person’s struggle to adapt while dealing with the often brutal and unforgiving attitudes of the employers, neighbors, and strangers who populate this new land.
Ruillier employs a bold visual approach of colored pencil drawings complemented by a stark, limited palette of red, orange, and green backgrounds. Its beautiful simplicity represents the almost childlike hope and promise that is often associated with new beginnings. But as he implicitly suggests, it’s a promise that can shatter at a moment’s notice when the threat of being deported is a daily and terrifying reality.
About the Author
Jérôme Ruilier was born in 1966 in Madagascar and has lived much of his adult life in France. After spending the first dozen years of his career as a children’s book illustrator, in 2009 he wrote and drew his first graphic novel, Le Coeur-enclume, a deeply personal account of the first six days following the birth of a child with disabilities. His next graphic novel, Les Mohamed, was based on interviews with immigrants from North Africa conducted by the writer Yamina Benguigui, which explored the challenges that many immigrants in France face as they attempt to integrate in a new society. The Strange is Ruillier’s first graphic novel translated into English.
"This is what it was like. For many who still live with the threat of deportation and whose delicate and uncertain future waits on the desks of others, this is what it is still like."—The Atlantic
"The simple colours and economically drawn animals might suggest innocence, but threats lurk on every page in a compelling account of life of societies edge."—The Guardian
"In The Strange, we experience the manner in which each new interaction for an undocumented immigrant can be a matter of jeopardy. The art throughout this graphic novel is haunting, stressful, and beautiful."—Lit Hub
"A moving portrait of one refugee's journey rendered in bold strokes, The Strrange is a powerful reminder that we are all part of the frightening system that displaced people move through, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not."—Sarah Glidden, Rolling Blackouts
"A beautifully realized condensation of difficult real-world problems as deceptively simple lines and words, floating somewhere between fiction and non-fiction as so many great stories do. Honest and timely, a must-read."—Shaun Tan, The Arrival