Once again, has Sacco ever done anything that was any less than outstanding? My favourite piece from this collection was Chechen War, Chechen Women. Focusing on female lead storytellers of this conflict, it shows a very different side to the polemics and politics. It shows relentlessly practical women engaged in the struggle to hold their families together, to house, clothe and feed their children. Much of the context of the war has to be given by Sacco himself, because what the women want to talk about is the material of today, and getting to the next day. First I was here, then there. Here the building is of this material, there it was of this, which was better, which worse. Here is how I feed my children. Women are consumed with the detail of surviving a war, not the slogans of winning it.
For me, the most moving moment in the piece is when an elderly woman describes losing her adult daughter. There is a simple twelve panel page of her portrait, describing her daughter’s death, weeping. On the next page she shows Sacco a photograph of her daughter. Instead of drawing the contents of the photo, showing this lost daughter, there is simply a panel of Sacco himself looking at the rectangle in his hands, with the text “Just a photo. A mother standing with her two daughters.” In the next panel, he hands the rectangle back. It is the genius of Sacco that what seems like the most heartless is also the most heartbreaking. It seems so dismissive to say it was just a photo, to not bother to show what this woman was so desperate to convey, that she would weep to impart to a stranger. But in doing so he stops making this story about this one woman, this one dead daughter, this single fatality of war. By saying she is not special, he doesn’t diminish her story but makes it universal. By not portraying this woman, by not showing it as specifically happening to her, this Other in a foreign land far from here, he says she is just a daughter, standing with her mother, and you think of your own mother, your own daughter, of the photos you have held in your hands of identical composite, and know it could have been you, been the people in your photographs, born in another place at another time. It is so moving.