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!

Review: Why Does Daddy Always Look So Sad?

Author: Jude Morrow
Publisher: Beyond Words Publishing
Date of Publication: April 7, 2020

Why Does Daddy Always Look So Sad? is the story of one man’s journey to parenthood, and how his autism profoundly affected that journey, for both better and worse. Growing up autistic, Jude Morrow faced immense challenges and marginalization, but he was able to successfully—though not without difficulty—finish university and transition into the working world and eventually parenthood. This book is a view of life and love through the eyes of an autistic adult, who went from being a nonverbal and aggressive child to a hardworking and responsible father to a non-autistic son.

In this poignant and honest memoir, Jude defiantly uses his voice to break down the misconceptions and societal beliefs surrounding autism, bringing hope to all who live with autism as well as those who care for someone on the spectrum. Jude views his autism as a gift to be shared, not a burden to be pitied, and as he demonstrates through his candid recollections and observations, autistic people’s lives can be every bit as happy and fulfilling as those who don’t have autism.

I knew that Jupiter has seventy-nine known moons and where the swimming pool was located on the Titanic, yet I didn’t know how to connect with this beautiful child who called me “Daddy.”

I wasn’t entirely knowing what to expect with this memoir as I’m not hugely knowledgeable about those on the Autism Spectrum, but it is something I would like to know and understand more about. This book follows the author’s journey as he grew up and moved through life, living with having Asperger’s. There were a number of struggles that he expertly described in a way that the reader could really understand and empathize with. It was touching to see it through his eyes as he came to realizations and came to accept his condition so that he could not only enjoy his life but build a wonderful relationship with his son. Though I’m not on the spectrum in any way, there were situations he described that I empathized with greatly due to having high anxiety.

I really enjoyed going through Morrow’s story the way he told it. His introspection and self examination allows the reader to fully immerse themselves in what he describes and his emotions during his experiences, even when he has a hard time understanding them himself. It was a wonderful view not only into what he has experienced with his condition, but also what other’s around him experienced.

Jude Morrow presented with communication and social difficulties early in life, which led to a diagnosis of Asperger Type Autism at the age of 11. Despite having educational challenges, Jude progressed through secondary school and graduated from the University of Ulster with an honors degree in social work in 2012. Jude now works as a social worker and is a motivational speaker and advocate for all things autism. When not speaking, writing, or social working, Jude loves spending time with his son, Ethan, enjoying the outdoors, cooking, and reading.

Thank you again to Beyond Words Publishing for offering me a copy of this book. Happy reading!