Joe & Azat by Jesse Lonergan (Turkmenistan 2005-07) is a graphic novel coming out next month. It is based loosely on Lonergan’s Peace Corps experience in the former Soviet Republic. This graphic novel is about an “American Joe” who finds in Turkmenistan a good friend, Azat, who is a Turkman dreamer. The novel is full of desert cab rides, vodka shots, secret girlfriends, and Turkman’s business schemes. Reviewers write that “Lonergan captures not only the bizarreness of living in a country where the president for life launches copies of his poetry books into space, outlaws gold teeth and renames the months and days, but also reveals that there is hope in seemingly hopeless situations.” Lonergan is the writer and artist of the novel and creates an “eternally optimistic and enthusiastic Turkmen who has an idealized view of America, plus grandiose dreams of business success and romantic love.” Sound familiar? Azat is a great character.

 Joe knows that Azat’s ambitions are preposterous, but Azat’s enthusiasm is infectious and, more importantly, he proves to be a true friend. You can find more about Azat (and Jesse) at Jesse’s website: http://jesselonergan.blogspot.com