Inzer, a teenage author-illustrator, delivers a charming tale of self-identity.
The author was born in 1997 in Japan and grew up there until 2003, when her American father and Japanese mother moved the family to the United States. During a solo trip home to the land of her birth in the summer of 2013, just prior to her 16th birthday, she gathered the content for what would become this slim graphic novel. The book’s title refers to Inzer’s “somewhat feeling half at home in both Japan and America.” In Japan, she stays with her grandmother, Baba, and her grandfather, Jiji; she also visits with other relatives, and goes to sites she hasn’t seen in a decade. Along the way, she gets reacquainted with old favorites; one example, drawn with loving care, is a domestic hamburger: “Besides my grandparents, the second greatest reunion I had in Japan was with a certain fast food chain you can’t find in America: Mos Burger, the love of my life.” She also sampled destinations she’d never visited before, such as Kyoto; her description of that city’s Rocks of Ryoanji offers an enjoyable example of her snarky style: “I think I should try to do some transcendental thinking/writing, being in one of Japan's most famous historical sights, but the camera clicks and tourists (I know, I know, I’m one) make it kind of hard to be enlightened.” Inzer’s best descriptions are of other people, such as an apprentice geisha that “will sort of acknowledge your presence and faintly smile and looks super pumped.” But although Inzer’s commentary is often revealing, it’s her winning illustrations (and to a lesser degree, her photos) that bring her version of modern-day Japan into focus—particularly her self-portraits, which effectively show her reactions to the places and people around her.
An innocent’s voyage of self-discovery that artfully reveals a country few Americans know.