PHILADELPHIA - Sarah Glidden's first graphic novel - "How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less" - is not just her debut, but a travelogue with a decidedly personal bent that invokes a deft blend of history, skepticism and, ultimately, acceptance.
In the book, published by Vertigo - an imprint of DC Comics - Glidden details her birthright visit to Israel. Birthright visits are efforts by Israel to familiarize young Jewish adults with the Jewish state and maintain a strong connection to American Jewry. Visitors are shown the country and introduced to interesting Israelis from all walks of life, and some end up staying for a while, or even immigrating.
But instead of serving as a travel guide with personal insights, Glidden's novel is an exploration of how she viewed the country, before visiting, during and, ultimately, after her visit.
"I knew I wanted to do something that related to history or current events in some way because those things interest me. So one day I was having an argument with my mother about the political situation in Israel.
She said, 'Why don't you go there before you decide that you know everything about it? What about a birthright trip?'" Glidden said in an e-mail to The Associated Press from Turkey where she is traveling.
"And that sparked the idea to go on a birthright tour and make some kind of comic about it.
"I think I signed up for the trip that same day and I was on a plane a few months later."
Before "60 Days," Glidden's work in comic books was just small, personal efforts aimed at practicing her craft and a way to experiment.
"After a while, I decided I wanted to try a larger project but I wasn't quite sure what that would be," she said, until the trip to Israel.
The visit proved fertile, informative and eye-opening.
Throughout the graphic novel Glidden's artwork and dialogue explore Israel's founding, the political turbulence that hovers over the country with its relations with Palestinians and, to an extent, the world at large.
Ultimately, however, the 208-page book is about a person's journey of self-discovery.
"In a way, this book isn't really about Israel but a story of someone going from certainty to uncertainty. It was important to show that this was my own subjective experience and not a book which is to explain Israel to the reader," Glidden said.
"It's about me trying to explain it to myself."