A brilliantly original debut graphic novel that imagines a fantastical alternate Cairo where wishes really do come true. Shubeik Lubeik—a fairy tale rhyme that means “your wish is my command” in Arabic—is the story of three people who are navigating a world where wishes are literally for sale. • A Best Book of the Year: The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, NPR
“The mythic qualities of Mohamed’s world bring our own world into sharper focus . . . Mohamed’s humor often feels like a protest, as do the thick and assertive lines of her drawings . . . The effect is gritty, brazen, and full of spunk.”—The New Yorker
Three wishes that are sold at an unassuming kiosk in Cairo link Aziza, Nour, and Shokry, changing their perspectives as well as their lives. Aziza learned early that life can be hard, but when she loses her husband and manages to procure a wish, she finds herself fighting bureaucracy and inequality for the right to have—and make—that wish. Nour is a privileged college student who secretly struggles with depression and must decide whether or not to use their wish to try to “fix” this depression, and then figure out how to do it. And, finally, Shokry must grapple with his religious convictions as he decides how to help a friend who doesn’t want to use their wish. Deena Mohamed brings to life a cast of characters whose struggles and triumphs are heartbreaking, inspiring, and deeply resonant.
Although their stories are fantastical—featuring talking donkeys, dragons, and cars that can magically avoid traffic—each of these people grapples with the very real challenge of trying to make their most deeply held desires come true.
About the Author
DEENA MOHAMED is an Egyptian designer, illustrator, and writer. She first began making comics at eighteen, when she created the viral webcomic Qahera, a satirical superhero strip starring a visibly Muslim superheroine.Originally published in Arabic by Dar el Mahrousa in Egypt, Shubeik Lubeik was awarded Best Graphic Novel and the Grand Prize at the 2017 Cairo Comix Festival. She lives, works and is usually asleep in Cairo, Egypt.
“Energetic . . . The mythic qualities of Mohamed’s world bring our own world into sharper focus . . . Mohamed’s humor often feels like a protest, as do the thick and assertive lines of her drawings . . . The effect is gritty, brazen, and full of spunk.” —The New Yorker
“Bold, gritty drawings and sharp narration.” —New York Times Book Review
“Mohamed builds a rich and harrowing world—and finds every place a fascinating story might be hiding.” —Mattie Lubchansky, editor of The Nib
“Shubeik Lubeik is easily the most subversive book I've read in decades! Deena Mohamed has much to say about the human condition, but she does so with effortless grace. Superb cartooning, and brimming with intelligence both emotional and intellectual—all while maintaining an incredible sense of humor—Shubeik Lubeik embodies the holy grail of comix-making that few graphic novels have ever managed to achieve. A wonderous accomplishment and important addition to the culture.” —Ganzeer, author/artist of The Solar Grid
“A powder keg of human emotions and desires, cleverly delivered by its fantastical premise. Shubeik Lubeik investigates human nature with unflinching grace, carefully thought out worldbuilding, and characters so moving that they have found a permanent place in my heart. This book makes me believe that I too could buy a wish from the corner store.” —Rhea Ewing, author ofFine: A Comic About Gender
"An astonishing first book by an immensely talented young artist and writer. The settings and stories cover decades of a history that is fantastical but feels familiar. Every page moves boldly with action and energy, even as the characters wrestle with internal and deeply moral conflicts. Deena Mohamed is one to watch." —Thi Bui, author of The Best We Could Do
"In Shubeik Lubeik, Deena Mohamed plays a dangerous game that revives monsters and angels from our secret wishes and dreams. A masterpiece and one of the most iconic graphic novels of North Africa, where the innocence of the past meets the nightmares of the present." —Ahmed Naji, author of Rotten Evidence “Splendid . . . Lithe, brushy black-and-white art is broken with color pages of infographic-style interludes. . . This grand fairy tale announces Mohamed as a promising new voice amid a renaissance of contemporary Middle Eastern cartoonists.” —Publishers Weekly
“Startlingly original . . . [A] debut graphic novel of extraordinary illustrative and literary skill, as emotionally engaging as it is eye-opening.” —Big Issue
“This dazzlingly profound feast begins at a Cairo kiosk, where, among modern sundry goods, bottled wishes are sold . . . Telling a good story means to successfully translate one’s desire, and in doing so, destinies can be shaped, and demises deferred.” —NPR “Best Books of 2023”
“Mohamed writes clever prose, by turns funny and wrenching, and fills the pages with expressive images. In addition to the compelling stories, she weaves in commentary on colonialism, religion, and ethics but also regularly intersperses doses of humor. A must read.” —Library Journal “Best Books of 2023”
“In a world of commodified and potency-graded wishes, issues of class and privilege take on imaginative, yet grounded, stakes . . . A showstopper . . . Every chapter has its own visual flair belonging to its star characters while sharing a consistent Egyptian setting and cast, including Arabic billboards and expressions defined (sometimes humorously) in the margins. Thoughtful and hilarious infographics deepen the history of this alternate world. Creative paneling, lettering, and symbolism ensure readers will tirelessly explore this book’s dense rewards . . . Your wish for a successful mixture of high concept fantasy, biting humor, and powerful moral struggles is granted.” —School Library Journal (starred) “[A] masterpiece . . . While Mohamed’s narratives are memorably entertaining and particularly insightful—exploring haves versus have-nots struggles, gender inequity, police brutality—even more astounding is her fluid, sweeping art . . . Mohamed’s stupendously dynamic visuals will prove addictive, moving all too swiftly toward a rewarding, resonating end.” —Booklist (starred)
“The book is exceptionally imaginative while also being wonderfully grounded in touching human relationships, existential quandaries, and familiar geopolitical and socio-economic dynamics. Mohamed’s art balances perfectly between cartoon and realism, powerfully conveying emotions, and her strong, clean lines gorgeously depict everything from an anguished face to an ornate bottle . . . Mohamed has a great sense of humor, which comes out in footnotes and casual asides throughout. Immensely enjoyable.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“Brilliantly original . . . Richly detailed . . . Mohamed’s bold, expressive illustrations split the difference between cartoon and realism, with brightly colored details . . . These characters’ struggles and successes are equally heartbreaking and uplifting, creating a wholly satisfying reading experience. Our wish is Mohamed’s command.” —BookPage (starred)
“An ambitious feat of storytelling and a historic accomplishment for Arab comic artists. No page is boring. [Mohamed's] use of intricate Arabic calligraphy to illustrate the genies (or, in Arabic, ‘djinn’) who climb out of the bottles is stunning. Above all, the panels move briskly, full of big movement and emotional pacing, including the clever use of full-bleed pages, and storytelling that zooms in and out of modern Egyptian history.” —Washington Post
“[Shubeik Lubeik] shows unique and varied magical experiences in a heartfelt, bittersweet, and humorous epic tale.” —New York Public Library “Best Books of 2023”