Review | Almost American Girl by Robin Ha

A powerful and timely teen graphic novel memoir—perfect for fans of American Born Chinese and Hey, Kiddo—about a Korean-born, non-English-speaking girl who is abruptly transplanted from Seoul to Huntsville, Alabama, and struggles with extreme culture shock and isolation, until she discovers her passion for comic arts.

For as long as she can remember, it’s been Robin and her mom against the world. Growing up in the 1990s as the only child of a single mother in Seoul, Korea, wasn’t always easy, but it has bonded them fiercely together.

So when a vacation to visit friends in Huntsville, Alabama, unexpectedly becomes a permanent relocation—following her mother’s announcement that she’s getting married—Robin is devastated. Overnight, her life changes. She is dropped into a new school where she doesn’t understand the language and struggles to keep up. She is completely cut off from her friends at home and has no access to her beloved comics. At home, she doesn’t fit in with her new stepfamily. And worst of all, she is furious with the one person she is closest to—her mother.

Then one day Robin’s mother enrolls her in a local comic drawing class, which opens the window to a future Robin could never have imagined.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

As soon as I read the synopsis for this graphic memoir I had to pick it up. I’m always interested in anything related to Korean culture and individuals so I definitely wanted to read about the author’s experiences and perspective.

Taken as a whole this is a very complex story where the author examines her relationships with her mother and others, her internal feelings and thoughts and cultural differences – plus having to deal with being a teenager at the time that her life went through major upheaval. Even if you haven’t dealt with many of the things she dealt with, you can probably sympathize with being a teenager who’s unsure of themselves and unsure how to fit in.

The way Ha addresses a lot of the cultural differences and issues was also great to see, she perfectly showed snippets of some of the different perspectives in Korean culture vs. American, and some of the racism she experienced just because of what she looked like and spoke like.

I really enjoyed her storytelling in this work and her art style with the changing color palettes that denoted time and emotion. It was just a beautiful story to experience in my opinion and I will definitely be looking up her other works.

Happy reading!

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