An insightful, moving coming-of-age tale.

ALMOST AMERICAN GIRL

Transitioning from life in Korea to America, a young woman struggles with change and figuring out where she fits.

After her mother’s decision to marry a man in Alabama, 14-year-old Chuna, who thought she was just going on another mother-daughter trip, grapples with culture shock, bullying, and integrating into a new family. Her mother is still her hero, and she recognizes the sacrifices she has made in order for them to survive. It’s rough going though, especially when the rest of the Kims, her new stepfamily, are not very supportive. She can’t help but compare Korea to the U.S., the lively streets of Seoul and her many friends to her isolation in 1990s Huntsville. Bullying, though for different reasons—in Korea, for coming from a single-parent home and in Alabama, for being Asian—is always prevalent in her life. (Many of the people she interacts with at school are White.) It isn’t until her mother reminds her of her love of comics and drawing that Chuna, now going by Robin, begins to thrive. Employing soft and subdued coloring for the majority of the work, Ha (Cook Korean!, 2016, etc.) uses sepia tones for recollections of her family’s history in Korea. This heartfelt memoir from an author who shares her honest, personal experiences excels at showing how Ha navigated Asian American identity and the bonds between mother and daughter.

An insightful, moving coming-of-age tale. (glossary) (Graphic memoir. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-268510-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today.

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THEY CALLED US ENEMY

A beautifully heart-wrenching graphic-novel adaptation of actor and activist Takei’s (Lions and Tigers and Bears, 2013, etc.) childhood experience of incarceration in a World War II camp for Japanese Americans.

Takei had not yet started school when he, his parents, and his younger siblings were forced to leave their home and report to the Santa Anita Racetrack for “processing and removal” due to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. The creators smoothly and cleverly embed the historical context within which Takei’s family’s story takes place, allowing readers to simultaneously experience the daily humiliations that they suffered in the camps while providing readers with a broader understanding of the federal legislation, lawsuits, and actions which led to and maintained this injustice. The heroes who fought against this and provided support to and within the Japanese American community, such as Fred Korematsu, the 442nd Regiment, Herbert Nicholson, and the ACLU’s Wayne Collins, are also highlighted, but the focus always remains on the many sacrifices that Takei’s parents made to ensure the safety and survival of their family while shielding their children from knowing the depths of the hatred they faced and danger they were in. The creators also highlight the dangerous parallels between the hate speech, stereotyping, and legislation used against Japanese Americans and the trajectory of current events. Delicate grayscale illustrations effectively convey the intense emotions and the stark living conditions.

A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today. (Graphic memoir. 14-adult)

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60309-450-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Top Shelf Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2019

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A truth-is-stranger-than-fiction story about a lost soul finding her way.

PASSPORT

Navigating high school is hard enough, let alone when your parents are CIA spies.

In this graphic memoir, U.S. citizen Glock shares the remarkable story of a childhood spent moving from country to country; abiding by strange, secretive rules; and the mystery of her parents’ occupations. By the time she reaches high school in an unspecified Central American nation—the sixth country she’s lived in—she’s begun to feel the weight of isolation and secrecy. After stealing a peek at a letter home to her parents from her older sister, who is attending college in the States, the pieces begin to fall into place. Normal teenage exploration and risk-taking, such as sneaking out to parties and flirtations with boys, feel different when you live and go to school behind locked gates and kidnapping is a real risk. This story, which was vetted by the CIA, follows the author from childhood to her eventual return to a home country that in many ways feels foreign. It considers the emotional impact of familial secrets and growing up between cultures. The soft illustrations in a palette of grays and peaches lend a nostalgic air, and Glock’s expressive faces speak volumes. This is a quiet, contemplative story that will leave readers yearning to know more and wondering what intriguing details were, of necessity, edited out. Glock and many classmates at her American school read as White; other characters are Central American locals.

A truth-is-stranger-than-fiction story about a lost soul finding her way. (Graphic memoir. 13-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-45898-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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