[REVIEW] Shubeik Lubeik, by Deena Mohamed

The beautifully designed colorful cover of the graphic novel Shubeik Lubeik is held up by a Black woman's(my) hand on a white shelf in front of a white wall . A matching circular mirror frame and a delicate painted ceramic cup are in the background. The cover illustration depicts an Egyptian woman's hands reaching out in the darkness to grab an illuminated bottle containing a wish.

(Buy this brilliant book here.)

In Arabic folktales, Shubeik Lubeik is the first part of the rhyme a genie speaks once released from a lamp. It means “Your wish is my command.

It’s been a very long time since I read something so captivating. This graphic novel, recently translated from Arabic into English, drew me out of a cold, rainy Boston weekend into a very detailed alternative Egypt, where wishes are real and an inevitable source of much politicking and policymaking. It’s a fascinating world, but even though it’s clear that wishes have a massive impact on the sociopolitical aspects of the Shubeik Lubeik world, that’s not entirely what the story is about.

Instead, we get three intertwined tales of three very different people with very different lives and very different reasons for wanting to have their deepest wish come true. In beautifully rendered panels we follow each story through to an unexpected conclusion. I won’t spoil them for you because they’re worth reading cold. I will say that they all examine desire, agency, and regret in very poignant ways, and the inevitable, seemingly small connections between each story strengthen their impacts. In between, there are a few amusing pages of brochures explaining the history and policy of wishmaking in this world which tips into interesting political commentary at times.

Listen. I sat down with this on Saturday morning and didn’t come back up for air until the sun had gone down. The only reason I stopped reading then is because I was enjoying it so much that I wasn’t ready for it to be over yet and wanted to prolong the experience. When I returned to it the next day, the last story took me to that transcendent place that only a good story told well can. I laughed, I cried, I gasped, I cheered, and when I got to the last page, I sat with the book closed on my lap for a minute, wistfully thinking of what I’d just read.

This is thoroughly magical, deeply Egyptian, funny, moving, beautifully illustrated, and VERY worth reading.

All of the stars and the deepest heart’s desire to Shubeik Lubeik. Go read this book, everyone.

(Beautiful people! This was an absolutely wonderful read, and my first five star read of the new year. Go grab it from your local library, indie bookstore, or the Equal Opportunity Bookshop. Keep in mind that if you buy from that link, we will earn a commission. Thanks for reading, and peace! Now go and enjoy a good book! )

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