BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Almost American Girl by Robin Ha [in Booklist]

“The End of the World as I Know It” – Robin Ha’s first chapter heading – happened when she was 14. As a student in 1995 in Seoul, Korea, Ha was mostly a typical teenager, enjoying close friendships, studying hard, and obsessed with reading – and drawing – comics. That she lives with just her single working mother occasionally caused clucking gossip and bullying at school, but Ha’s two-person household was exactly right for parent and child.

While past vacations took the pair to touristy destinations like Hawaii and Singapore, this year, Ha’s mother announces they’re flying to Alabama, where they ultimately land in the Kim family home of three immigrant generations. When Ha’s mother shockingly reveals she’s marrying the recently divorced Mr. Kim, returning to Korea is no longer an option.

With unblinking honesty and raw vulnerability, Ha’s debut graphic memoir captures her often excruciating journey toward creating, 24 years later, “a new identity that I now love.” Silenced by lack of English, abused by racist students, even manipulated by a step-cousin, Ha’s her first American year is an arduous ordeal. Presented in full-color splendor, her energetic style mirrors the constant motion of her adolescent self, navigating the peripatetic turbulence toward adulthood from Seoul to Alabama to Virginia and back to Seoul – just for a visit – before finally arriving home.

Review: modified from “Graphic Novels,” Booklist, November 15, 2019

Readers: Young Adult

Published: 2020


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