Satoko and Nada
Satoko and Nada means well and looks unusual for manga. Created by Yupechika, it’s the story of two college roommates in America. Satoko is Japanese, and Nada is a Saudi Arabian Muslim who wears a hijab.
The series’ origin as a 4-koma (four-panel strip) online is apparent in its simple art style, with flat, minimal figures and each page a complete comic. But most aren’t going to read this for impressive visuals. The appeal is seeing two very different people getting along and learning about each other. The incidents are simple — the two meet, take selfies, compare fashion notes or discuss religion or tradition — and their good humor as they experience life together is contagious. (There’s not much about the school part, other than it being the time of life where you’re learning to be on your own.)
Nada’s head covering makes her easy to pick out in the panels, and it works well as contrast in black and white. Many of the events are based around explaining Muslim observances and Nada’s behavior, or contrasting public life (reserved) with private celebrations for girls only. Most habits are presented as positively as possible, with Nada talking about not being allowed to drive protecting her, although we do see her say things like, “I’m choosing to wear this, but… I still catch myself wishing I could wear whatever I want.”
It’s comfortable reading about the two young women getting along so well and learning from each other, even though they’re from such different areas. The American setting struck me as necessary, both to put them on more of an even footing, and also because we’re still very much a melting pot. Being in a third country than the ones they’re from means they have opportunities to learn together. And I loved how often food played a role! There’s even a recipe for an Arabic pistachio milk dessert in one of the comics. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)