Paper Plane

Published in Overland #208, 2012.

The third of three adaptations of old stories that I adapted into comics for Overland between 2010 and 2012. This adapted a short story called Paper Children by Elizabeth Jolley, originally published in Overland #89 in 1982. It was about a woman, Clara, was an obstetrician in Vienna, who gave her daughter Lisa, away for adoption just after the Anschluss of 1938. Her husband, being a Jew was in mortal danger, as was Lisa, according to the Nuremberg laws. This story was intriguing in that the structure was very modernist: shifts in time were not signposted, and multiple first person viewpoints that included the anxious imaginary scenarios of both Clara and Lisa of their first real meeting in more than quarter of a century.

This structure was difficult to compress into the 8 pages I had been allotted, so I altered the setting. It is about an Afghan woman, Asal, who is an obstetrician, anticipating meeting her daughter whom she gave away for adoption just as the communist regime of Najibulllah imploded, and the country descended into the mujahedeen civil war that resulted in the dystopian regime of the Taliban, husbanding Al Qaeda and the rest of that benighted country's history since. Asal's daughter, Kinah, wound up in outback Western Australia, a place barely imaginable to someone who grew up in Kabul and studied medicine in Kiev. By making this alteration, I could draw out the plight of educated women in Afghanistan (and by proxy, elsewhere), highlight that period under communist government when it was almost a western country - in Kabul at least - no doubt the provinces were no different to now as they have been for much of their history, fiercely tribal. It is first and foremost a story about women, mothers and daughters, how they are shaped by the culture that they grow up in, the differences in expectations and pressures they have to conform to. I have a passion to write about women as they are, not the mediated version.   

As with my other stories for Overland, I preferred to adapt prose stories to the comics medium in a non-literal way – a springboard to something contemporary - since readers will more likely have knowledge of those events than further back. I like to rely on my readers to use their general knowledge to literally fill in the background of my stories, completing the story. 


Type: Short Story