Maya Zankoul released her new book, “Beirut-New York,” at the Nicolas Sursock Museum in Ashrafieh on Thursday, October 20.
Zankoul is a Lebanese author, visual artist, blogger, and television personality and is known for her funny comics and cartoons published in her books and webcomics blog.
This new satirical and witty illustrated book depicts the similarities between two cities that seem highly incompatible. While on vacation, Zankoul roams the famous streets of “The City that Never Sleeps,” New York, and uncovers its day-to-day resemblance to her beloved city, Beirut.
New York City was meant to provide an alternative experience to her everyday-life, but turned out to be rather similar to Beirut.
The author explains how it all started from the comparison between the New York yellow cab and Beirut’s famous “service,” and how all other similarities began to appear after that. Zankoul describes both as iconic, the first being immediately representative of New York and the second because “it isn’t found anywhere else but here.”
Her book taps into details and remarkable illustrated similarities that go beyond the stereotypes and stigma between “First World” and “Third World” countries and West-East differences. For instance, she compares Chinatown and Bourj Hammoud, two neighborhoods largely settled by ethnic minorities.
Another comparison drawn in the book is Katz’s Deli and Malak Al Taouk, both known for their “oversized” sandwiches. She goes from comparing the most pretentious areas, Fifth Avenue and Beirut Souks, to comparing the humblest, Brooklyn Flea market and Souk Al Ahad.
Zankoul stated that her inspiration came from the general hectic aura of New York City, which reminded her of the frenzied daily life in Beirut.
Each day on vacation would consist of several encounters that brought up the uncanny similarities between the two cities. After writing down dozens of ideas, she picked the best 40 resemblances to make up her small illustrated book.
However, aside from the satirical comparisons that Zankoul highlights, her book and works seek to shed light on the fact that Beirut, and Lebanon in general, “are underrated and deserve more attention.” Additionally, the author describes how cities around the world “aren’t too different now” and coincide on many levels despite the cultural differences in them.
Maya Zankoul explained that her trip to the USA gave her a “fresh perspective about the cities,” which helped her appreciate her home city more. Beirut is an inspiring city that seeps of art and culture; it is urbanized yet historic, a description that can be attributed to New York as well.