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MONSTROUS

A TRANSRACIAL ADOPTION STORY

Immersive and engrossing: a beautifully depicted emotional journey.

An adopted teen struggles with monstrous submerged anger amid bullying and self-criticism in this graphic memoir.

Author Myer, South Korean by birth, grew up in rural Maryland with White adoptive parents and a sister, Lizzy, who was adopted from a different South Korean family. Unlike Lizzy, who was popular and did well in school, rambunctious Sarah didn’t quite fit in, playing more easily with boys than girls. However, a wildly vivid imagination and burgeoning artistic talents helped Sarah interact with others; Sarah’s focus on drawing and animation wasn’t just a hobby, but a passion and an ongoing lens for relating to the outside world. Sarah’s use of anime cosplay to explore curiosity about gender expression and sexuality skillfully expresses central elements of the book and adds complexity to this coming-of-age story. The frequent racial microaggressions of early childhood escalated over time, with racist and homophobic White middle and high schoolers insulting, physically bullying, and harassing Sarah on a daily basis. As Sarah internalized this hatred, it was magnified by self-doubt, much of which was centered around being adopted, and it began to manifest as an angry, monstrous self that lashed out violently at bullies, friends, and even family. The themes of anxiety and self-image are powerfully depicted by contrasting the more minimalist drawing style in fairly neutral tones with dramatically shaded and dynamic panels.

Immersive and engrossing: a beautifully depicted emotional journey. (resources, author’s note, photos) (Graphic memoir. 13-18)

Pub Date: June 27, 2023

ISBN: 9781250268808

Page Count: 272

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023

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THEY CALLED US ENEMY

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

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
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  • New York Times Bestseller

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. 4, 2019

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BANNED BOOK CLUB

A tribute to young people’s resistance in the face of oppression.

In 1983 South Korea, Kim was learning to navigate university and student political activism.

The daughter of modest restaurant owners, Kim was apolitical—she just wanted to make her parents proud and be worthy of her tuition expenses. Following an administrator’s advice to avoid trouble and pursue extracurriculars, she joined a folk dance team where she met a fellow student who invited her into a banned book club. Kim was fearful at first, but her thirst for knowledge soon won out. As she learned the truth of her country’s oppressive fascist political environment, Kim became closer to the other book club members while the authorities grew increasingly desperate to identify and punish student dissidents. The kinetic manhwa drawing style skillfully captures the personal and political history of this eye-opening memoir. The disturbing elements of political corruption and loss of human rights are lightened by moving depictions of sweet, funny moments between friends as well as deft political maneuvering by Kim herself when she was eventually questioned by authorities. The art and dialogue complement each other as they express the tension that Kim and her friends felt as they tried to balance school, family, and romance with surviving in a dangerous political environment. References to fake news and a divisive government make this particularly timely; the only thing missing is a list for further reading.

A tribute to young people’s resistance in the face of oppression. (Graphic memoir. 14-adult)

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-945820-42-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Iron Circus Comics

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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