5: Graphic novel excerpt, Rutu Modan’s "The Property," 2013.
In the four panels excerpted here, we see Regina, dressed up and sitting tall in a taxi. The first two panels show her looking out at the streets of Warsaw as they are now, with various people walking up and down along storefronts. In the second two panels, though she is still present in the picture, the landscape outside is depicted in grayscale. We are meant to understand that Regina is now remembering the Warsaw of her youth, the city that she left behind as a young woman, and the life and family that went with it.
Suggested Activities: Before students read this section of the graphic novel, show them this image and ask them what they think they are looking at. See if, in groups of two or three, they can come up with a storyline for the old woman in these four panels. Have them write four accompanying narrative boxes to go along with these four panels. Each group should then present their storylines to the class.
Additionally, students can research a well-known location in their town. This could be a street corner, a city block, a park, a building—it could even be the school or building in which their classroom is located. See if they can find any archival photographs of this locale and have them take, and then print out, present-day photographs of the same place. They can then create panels or posters, in groups or individually, showing what has changed in and around these places over time, and what has stayed the same. Help them think about how best to design their posters in order to document and juxtapose past and present. Encourage them to annotate their images to draw viewers’ attention to important details.
Once students have created and presented their posters, hold a class discussion comparing their findings to Regina’s experience in Warsaw in the book. How might the changes that Warsaw has seen since before World War II be different from the changes that can be observed in students’ photographs? How do they imagine Regina might feel observing these changes for the first time?
Source: Rutu Modan, The Property, trans. Jessica Cohen (Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2013), 48.