Graphic novel memoir about moving to a new country, getting used to a new culture, and finding yourself. The author (Ha Chuna, with chosen American name Robin) was a teenager when she accompanied her mother on a visit the United States- only they never went back home to Korea. She was abruptly plunged into a new life, going to regular middle school but unable to speak the language, separated from all her friends and favorite activities back home. She felt so isolated living among strangers in a sprawling suburb in Alabama. Kids at school teased or ignored her. But gradually things began to get better. As her English improved, she started to stand up for herself and make friends. Her mother enrolled her in an art class specifically for drawing comics, and she found joy in something she’d always loved- Korean and Japanese manga. Made her best friend at the comic bookstore. But the clash of Korean and American culture was still a big part of her life- even though she’d moved to a new country, her mother still experienced pressures from her new Korean family members (having by this time married a Korean-American man). Chuna hated the pressure put on her to perform piano pieces in competitions or even just in front of family members and visitors, but as she learned more of her mother’s history, she realized how much pressure her mother faced as well. How much social criticism she’d lived with back in Korea, being a single mother raising a child alone. One of the reasons they came to America. The story is just as much about the struggles her mother went through, and the strength she showed, as it is about Robin herself. And when Chuna finally goes back to Korea to visit old friends, she realizes that she doesn’t quite fit in there anymore. It’s a relief to read that at the end, she’s coming to accept her new identity as Korean-American and has found her old love (manga) in new places with new friends.
I really liked seeing the samples of the manga she drew herself as a teen, in a backdrop on some of the pages. Wish I could see the whole story of that! Side note: I also really liked how the text indicated if the characters were speaking in Korean or English, by using a different color text, or English words Chuna couldn’t understand, with undecipherable scribbles!
Borrowed from the public library.