It seems protests are being held almost daily and the world feels—almost—hopeless as people express their hatred for one another. In such turbulent times, a positive story about overcoming challenges—despite the politics standing in the way—is needed, and Dreams in Thin Air provides that.
Dreams in Thin Air, written by Michael M. Nybrandt and illustrated by Thomas E. Mikkelsen, is a memoir that takes us to 1997 when Nybrandt cycles across Tibet. After an unexpected storm rolls through, he seeks shelter in a Tibetan monastery. There he discovers the people’s passion for soccer and finds heartbreak after witnessing the Chinese government’s treatment. Nybrandt then experiences a dream of coaching the Tibetan soccer team, and decides to follow it as a means of creating awareness of Tibet’s difficult situation and their culture—without referencing the geopolitical relations surrounding it.
Immediately when flipping through the thick pages of the graphic novel, there is minimal text on most of the pages. Despite this, we get the full scope of the story. Nybrandt uses important moments from his memories, diary notes and articles to draw readers in. Each moment is carefully written so that it has purpose rather than acting as filler, creating a well-paced and engaging story.
Thin lines adorn the panels, and the consistency of faces can be off-putting. In one panel, Nybrandt’s mouth is in the middle of his face, and in another it’s down by his chin. Despite such a positive story, the colours feel dull—very little shading is used to make images pop. Skin tones change as well—one minute the protagonist’s skin is glowing and in another he looks ghastly. It can be a challenge to read due to the size of the book. It surely wouldn’t be something to read on a small couch or on a bus with another beside you—your elbow jabbing into your neighbour’s side as you go to change the pages.
The finale is bittersweet as Nybrandt takes a moment in the epilogue to reflect on his experiences, the progress made since that fateful day in 1997, and notes, “everybody has the right to dream.”
Dreams in Thin Air
Written by Michael M. Nybrandt
180 pgs, $25