Kirkus Reviews QR Code
CONTINENTAL DRIFTER by Kathy MacLeod Kirkus Star


by Kathy MacLeod ; illustrated by Kathy MacLeod

Pub Date: April 2nd, 2024
ISBN: 9781250813732
Publisher: First Second

A writer and artist navigates her Thai and American heritage.

Opening in the mid-1990s, when MacLeod was 11, this graphic memoir traces her emotional and physical journeys of searching for connection and belonging while making sense of her blended family and her bicultural luk khrueng (“half child” in Thai) identity. Despite having a Thai mother and growing up in Bangkok, Kathy, who attends an international school where you’re not allowed to speak Thai, feels like she lives in an “American bubble.” She counts down the days until her family’s annual trip to coastal Maine, where clam chowder, lighthouses, blueberries, and the relatives on her dad’s side await. Once stateside, however, Kathy’s self-conscious feelings of being different return, and she finds herself balancing hypervisibility with wanting to be “just invisible enough.” Her constant negotiations between places and perspectives will be familiar to anyone who’s experienced feelings of isolation, highlighting the story’s core lesson that the path to finding oneself is full of obstacles, and the key is to explore—even embrace—each and every element of one’s own identity. Just as both her mom’s curry and her aunt Barbie’s strawberry shortcake taste like home, Kathy learns that each dimension of her personal and cultural background offers much on its own without overshadowing other parts. The simple yet expressive art style is charming and at times poignant, showing the family dynamics and the secrets locked within people’s hearts.

A heartfelt story honestly and evocatively told.

(afterword, photos) (Graphic memoir. 8-12)