Interview with Jag Lall, author of “Death’s Door: Ignorance Likes Company”

Jaq Lall is a British artist, who has published a graphic book for young adults addressing intolerance against Muslims and brown people in the wake of Sept. 11 and the London Bombings in 2005. Lall was kind enough to answer a few questions about “Death’s Door” for LIE readers.

Readers, how have you addresed post-9/11 stereotyping with your children? Tell us in the comments section and you will be entered to win my review copy of Lall’s book.

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Give our readers a brief overview of “Death’s Door.”

The story resolves around a Sikh man who is being victimised by the police, who think he is a terrorist. The plot then plays out where we get into the minds of the characters and see their perceptions and fears of each othe51Brrck4VkL__SL500_AA240_r and how their actions are decided by their ignorance. It is a gritty, hard hitting story which really tries to delve into the hearts and minds of the characters.

Where did the inspiration for this comic come from?

After the events July 7, 2005, and September 11,  the story kinda came from the reaction of society to people who are brown skinned and wear beards. I was very dismayed at how people were tarred with being extremists or terrorists simply because of their looks, so I wanted to put out a positive message about not pre-judging people but instead trying to promote communication and dialogue.

Who is the audience for this book?

The minimum age of the reader that the book is aimed at is 14, but I do feel the story and message can reach readers older then that too. The book is designed to be used in schools and youth groups regarding racism. I’ve found that the book can be used in a history class as well as philosophical enquiry training courses, so the story can be used within a broad scope of subjects.

What do you hope young people will take away from this comic?

I hope that people will look at this and it will make them think twice before judging someone simply for the way they look or where they come from. As a society we are surrounded by a great diverse set of knowledge, experiences and qualities of people around us and it is a great pity if we pull down the shutters due to the fear of people who may seem to be different to who we are and where we are from.

Do you think the comic format has an impact on how this message of tolerance is received?

Absolutely. I actually think that it’s comic book format is one of the reasons the book is resonating with people because you have this meld of narrative with bold artwork which instantly brings a reaction and opinions. The medium is such a fantastic tool for telling stories, but I feel that in the educational market it has been slightly overlooked.

“Death’s Door” is very frank and, in some places, includes violence. How do you recommend parents help young readers understand and get the most from this content?

You’re right the book is quite direct at times. But I felt that by going through this avenue, it creates a better stimulus for readers and students in particular, and encourages debate and challanges their mindsets. I think for parents, the little spot of violence in the book works well as a shock and creates that impact for the young readers about how extreme the consequences of hate and ignorance can be. Hopefully “Death’s Door” will help to bring more awareness and acceptance of other cultures and a willingness to get to know each other and not be worried due to a difference in the colour of skin or religion.

What role did the United Nations Association of Canada play in the development and publishing of this book?

Lorraine Payette who is a regional coordinator from the UNA-C of Ontario has been a great advocate of the book and showed it to the UNA-C who were very happy to give their backing and support to the book and it’s message. I’m very appreciative of the UNA-C offering to give their name to Death’s Door. it was very kind of them.

Where can parents of young readers find this book?

The book is available on amazon.co.uk here.

Also, readers can buy the book directly from me and I would be happy to give a little discount off of the retail price too. They can contact me at: rs_10@hotmail.com.

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About Tami

Tami Winfrey Harris writes about race, feminism, politics and pop culture at the blog What Tami Said. Her work has also appeared online at The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Ms. Magazine blog, Newsweek, Change.org, Huffington Post and Racialicious. She is a graduate of the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism. She is mom to two awesome stepkids and spends her spare time researching her family history and cultivating a righteous 'fro.
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