A Graphic Novel of Politics… and People
What happens when a revolution fails? That’s the question at the
center of Hélène Aldeguer’s sophisticated and award-winning
After the Spring. And while it’s a text rich in history, politics,
economics, and human rights, its close focus on everyday lives
ensures that such items do not remain abstract concepts but
ring with immediacy. When encountering the group of young
Tunisians who are the protagonists, students at the secondary
level and above are sure to feel a relatedness to their own
aspirations and anxieties.
THE NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR THE SOCIAL STUDIES
Correlations to NCSS’s Ten Themes of Social Studies:
In its own form of curriculum standards, the National Council for the Social Studies provides ten themes to organize teaching, learning—and, moreover, thinking—about key sub-disciplines and ideas. After the Spring addresses each of these themes:
Time, Continuity, and Change
People, Places, and Environments
Individual Development, and Identity
Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
Power, Authority, and Governance
Production, Distribution, and Consumption
Science, Technology, and Society
Civic Ideals and Practices
IN YOUR CLASSROOM AND LIBRARY
With its academic content and engaging narrative, After the
Spring can be read “across the curriculum” and in a variety
of settings. While the aligned social studies connections are
highlighted in the pages that follow, this is a graphic novel that
is equally at home in an ELA or Literature classroom, given
its multiple story lines and thematic complexity. In addition,
its powerful artwork and compelling characters help make
it a popular yet intellectually rigorous reading circle title or
independent reading option.
The Common Core calls on
reading standards to be applied to
a “range of text types, with texts
selected from a broad range of
cultures and periods” and include
the sub-genres of historical fiction
and graphic novels. With this in
mind, invite readers to consider
how Aldeguer draws on the skills
not only of visual storyteller, but
also of a journalist and historian.
With After the Spring serving as
an exemplar text, students can
explore central questions about
the sub-genre such as…
• What is the optimal balance
between history and fiction in
historical fiction—or is such
a question wrongheaded to
begin with as it features a false
• How do details precise to
a particular time and place
actually help make a story more
• How can historical fiction
function as a memorial to
individuals and groups who
might otherwise be forgotten?
ACTIVATING PRIOR KNOWLEDGE
Prepare readers for After the Spring by providing background
information as needed on Tunisia’s secularist political tradition
and the dictatorship of Ben Ali (1987-2011). Then have students
respond to the following.
• What was the “Arab Spring”?
• Where is Tunisia, and what do you know about the region?
• What pro-Democracy movements do you know about, and
what characterizes them?
• What challenges do you think youth might encounter in
times of political instability?
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS/WRITING PROMPTS:
After the Spring addresses the National Council for the Social Studies ten themes, an alignment revealed by the following questions
(which can be used as discussion questions, writing prompts, or a combination of both).
• Azziz claims that “Artists are a menace to our government.” What does he mean by this, and do
you agree? Why?
2. Time, Continuity, and Change
• How have the characters changed by the end of the book, and in what ways do these changes
reflect changes in Tunisia itself?
• What cycles of violence and protest seem to repeat themselves?
3. People, Places, and Environments
• How is life different in El Kef than in Tunis? What are
the pros and cons of leaving the former for the latter?
• Does Chayma’s decision to emigrate to France say
more about herself or the future outlook for Tunisia?
4. Individual Development and Identity
• How does the author use pairs of characters (Walid/Saif, Azziz/Saif, Meriem/Chayma, Meriem/
Azziz) to compare and contrast the decisions and life paths of Tunisian youth?
• How do the same themes of family expectations, career options, and relationships manifest across
5. Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
• How does the shifting point-of view give us
an overall portrait of the nation? In what sense
is Tunisia itself the protagonist?
• The author uses special word balloons when
the crowd of protestors speaks as one (pp.
32-36). What other things could this group be
shouting about the Ennahdha?
• Do you think the multitude of political parties
in Tunisia helped or impeded progress toward a
true and stable democracy?
6. Power, Authority, and Governance
• In what ways is assassination an ineffective way to hold or gain power? What happens when the
public perceives the victim as a “martyr”?
• What was the relationship between dictatorship, torture, and propaganda under Ben Ali? In what
ways is that dynamic not unique to Tunisia?
• How do events in Egypt affect Tunisia? To what extent do people really look outside their own
country for models of power-sharing and governance?
• How important is the idea of the government’s “legitimacy” in the novel? What are some ways to gain legitimacy?
7. Production, Distribution and Consumption• Why is a general strike such a potent political
weapon? Is it more so in some countries than in
• What are some different livelihoods open to
Tunisian youth during
this period, and what are
the positive or negative aspects of each?
8. Science, Technology, and Society
• At one point Meriem tells a taxi driver that he’s “scared from watching too much TV.” What is
the role of the media in supporting the ruling Ennahdha? Do the media play a bigger or smaller role
than one might expect in the events that unfold?
• How does the presence of mobile technology serve both to both boost activism and heighten
9. Global Connections
• What is the relationship between the economy, tourism, and
• What type of organizations outside of Tunisia seek to exploit
religious and political divisions for their own purposes?
• In what ways do the tragic deaths of the migrants recall conditions
elsewhere in the world, either currently or in the past?
10. Civic Ideals and Practices
• How important is free speech to the anti-government movement? What groups leverage it
• Are mass protests a form of free speech? When might they not be?
ACTIVITY: The Power of Silence
Spark a creative response to any of the book’s many silent passages by inviting students to provide
word balloons, thought bubbles, or captions for them. Alternately, you can provide practice in visual
literacy by having students give think-alouds to a partner or small group that share what they’re
thinking and feeling as they move through a sequence of panels.
FOR FURTHER READING AND VIEWING
YA HISTORICAL FICTION
The Servant (2010) The theme of young people’s aspirations in a period of national turmoil is expertly conveyed in Fatima’s Sharafeddine’s award-winning, Lebanon-set The Servant (2010).
Frontline: Revolution in Cairo
Frontline: Revolution in Cairo is an informative and powerful documentary that is available both on DVD and as streaming video at the PBS website.
A Note on Language.
Those using After the Spring in a classroom setting should know that it occasionally contains
coarse language. As with all reading material, we suggest you preview it with an eye to your institution and readers.