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A House Without Windows

Illustrated by Didier Kassaï
Published by Life Drawn
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

By the delicate hand of Didier Kassaï (Storm Over Bangui) comes a graphic documentary about the street children of Bangui, told in a style that mixes photos and illustrations.

In the Central African Republic, children grow up in a state of insecurity, poverty, and malnutrition. The land has become what many call "a house without windows."

Through illustrations, photos, and videos (activated via QR codes), this comic takes readers into the heart of this "forgotten crisis." Central African artist Didier Kassai and British photojournalist Marc Ellison guide readers through the harsh stories of Bangui’s children—slaving in diamond minds, housed in refugee camps—and showcase their inspirational courage in the face of unimaginable poverty.

Marc Ellison is currently based in Glasgow, Scotland, though this award-winning photojournalist's favorite subject is Africa. Difficulties of reintegration of girl soldiers in Uganda, practices of female genital mutilation, topics on child marriage in Tanzania, sex workers facing the prevalence of AIDS in Mozambique, health challenges in Sudanese refugee camps, and the use of reality radio to help farmers in Mali are just some of the sensitive topics that Marc Ellison has focused on in his work with 60 Minutes, Al Jazeera, The BBC, The Globe and Mail, The Guardian, The Toronto Star and Vice. A House Without Windows is his fourth work in comics journalism. Check out all of Marc's works at marcellison.com and follow him on Twitter at @marceellison.

Illustrator, watercolourist and self-taught caricaturist, Didier Kassaï was born in 1974 in Sibut, Central African Republic. He is known for his humorous watercolors and his active involvement in the drawing of the Central African press from 1994 to 1997, notably in the biblical press of the Baptist Mid-Mission and in the satirical daily Le Perroquet. In 1998, he participated in several residencies and festivals in Africa, Europe or the United States. He is the co-author (with Olivier Bombasaro) of Gypépé the Pygmy and Adventures in Central Africa with the Editions Ivoiriens Classic, he has also signed with several collective albums, some of which are in France. In 2006, he won the Africa and Mediterraneo Prize in Bologna for his work: Azinda and The Forced Marriage as well as the "Vues d'Afrique" contest at the Angoulême Festival with Bangui la coquette. His first solo album, The Odyssey of Mongou was published in 2014 by Harmattan BD. The following year, he published Storm Over Bangui, published by La Boîte à Bulles (of which excerpts were previously published in La Revue dessiné), an album soon to be followed by Pousse-Pousse (L'Harmattan), which won the Best Project Award at the festival Algiers in 2009.

“[A House Without Windows] pulls off something difficult with a quiet beauty. It mixes photography and comics from page to page, marshaling the strengths of each in the service of a devastating topic: the precarious lives of children in the Central African Republic, the former French colony that is one of the poorest countries in the world….A profound meditation on the possibility of resilience and the future for young people in the Central African Republic, this hybrid reportage succeeds in no small part because of Kassaï’s elegantly modest drawings....In a book whose content is far from understated — it chronicles, in part, the brutality kids face — Kassaï movingly deploys understated effects….Dense with information, the photos in the book are arresting, while the illustrated portions breathe, and beckon the reader to contend with the wider context for the fragility of so many young lives.”

– THE NEW YORK TIMES

"Kassaï’s visuals are marvelously intimate—with only a few artfully deployed brushstrokes, he conveys everything from the slumped weariness of a homeless child to the clenched consternation of a Doctors Without Borders field coordinator. The book also includes a QR code link to a video, and the mixing of mediums succeeds at immersion, rather than coming off as gimmicky. Ellison and Kassai don’t look away from the brutality or beauty found in Central African life in this remarkable collaboration."

– PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

"The book lets the children and those trying to help them tell their own stories, an exercise in comics documentary reportage as well as a political effort in its own right."

– TRIPWIRE

“ESSENTIAL… Illustrator Didier has a wonderfully organic style and deft eye honed as a political cartoonist and Satirist…. This collaborative effort works unflinchingly with an honesty that’s both heartbreaking and beautiful in it’s non-exploitive and sober snapshot of Central African life. You’ll want to look away, but you’ll be drawn in to continue. I both smiled and wept within a single sitting with A House Without Windows. If you don’t? Check your pulse.The intimate case studies featured in this remarkable work of powerful comic art and hard hitting photojournalism shines an indelible light on the human rights abuses these forgotten yet unforgettable children have endured, and showcase the incredible intelligence, resilience and inspirational courage of children on the brink, forced to fend for themselves in the face of unimaginable poverty. This is the first must read book of the year for me and I highly recommend A House Without Windows. A masterpiece of graphic novel journalism.”

– GOOD MEN PROJECT

"Told in a style that mixes photos and illustrations, the valiant Didier, pencil in hand, approaches whoever is willing to talk to him, with only empathy and understanding, going where probably no one has dared to go, inside the warring zones of Bangui, at the Central African Republic."

– GEEK DAD