I’ve been doing these year-end, mostly professional wrap-ups since the hopeful early oughts, but, as the sun rises on the ashes of this last very bad, no good year, it feels even more vital to remember everything that was good. Here were some things I made, did, learned in 2016.
1. Painted “Annotated Muses”, an obsessive, grand scale love letter to my best friends. It was exhibited at Postmasters Gallery in September
2. Toured Drawing Blood all over the world, from Mumbai and Jaipur to Beirut to Texas to London to Melbourne, and presented it onstage with writers I love like Omar bin Musa, Raghu Karnad, and Paul Mason. The book went into a second printing.
3. Sold my next book, Brothers of the Gun, the illustrated war memoir of the journalist Marwan Hisham, which builds on our Vanity Fair collaborations. We’re about half done with our first draft.
4. Fulfilled a long held goal and learned to read and write fairly fluent Arabic — enough to talk my way into a closed refugee camp and to translate my favorite short story writer. Despite earnest efforts, my Turkish sucks.
5. Did not do nearly enough journalism, but covered New York street vendors, a triumphant former sex worker in the Bronx, the election, the start of the fall of Aleppo, and refugees trapped by the EU deal in Greece. Also wrote a prescient little bit of fiction.
6. Practically commuted to Istanbul, that city that blinds me with love, now more than ever.
7. Grabbed a sketchpad and some fortifying whisky and drew the media human centipede that is the Republican National Convention.
8. Collaborated on an animation with Jay Z
9. Got interviewed by Christine Amanpour and Janet Mock. TIME Magazine named me a “Leader”. Do not have a gold statue, yet…
10. Read over eighty books, in four languages. Juan Goytisolo, you are my new god.
11. Painted the wall of a building on the Turkish Syrian border, on shaking, sun broiled scaffolding, and lived to tell about it.
As orange grim at the future looks, I still hold to work and love as the two constants…. the long conversations trying to set the world aright, the stories invented as we walk fast, the streetlights disappearing behind us, the flower drawings wheat pasted to walls, the sketchbooks, beauty, art, plans, solidarity, all of that. This next year will be hard, but I’m reminding myself to work like hell, and hold close those I love.