Almost American Girl: A Book Review

Almost American Girl shares the experiences of author Robin Ha as she and her mother abruptly moved from Seoul to Alabama when she was fourteen years old. Rendered in comic, this memoir is another expertly crafted voice to add to the archive of this medium.

Almost American Girl by Robin Ha

Published in 2020, Almost American Girl reflects on author/illustrator Robin Ha’s turbulent high school years. Robin is happy living in Korea with her single mother—-despite the judgmental comments of peers and teachers, Robin is well cared for by her hardworking mother and enjoys comics, her friends, and delicious food.

However, one summer, what was supposed to be just a mother-daughter vacation unexpectedly turns into a longterm relocation, and suddenly Robin must begin a new school year without hardly knowing English or really understanding American culture. Consequently, she is homesick, isolated, frustrated, and sometimes ridiculed by peers or ostracized by supposed family.

Almost American Girl is a well-framed memoir. As the author chronicles this life-changing period of adolescence, she weaves in retrospective narration and vignettes into her childhood, providing additional context for her past feelings and reactions. With time and perspective, Robin gains a better understanding of a situation she was too young to fully grasp, developing an empathy for the challenges her mother had to face all on her own while looking after her.

The illustrations are descriptive and paneled effectively, and I appreciated how Robin shaded the flashbacks in sepia tones to distinguish them from the “present” storyline. Moreover, the retrospective “voice-over” commentary provided an added layer of insight integral to the memoir genre.

An excellent graphic memoir!

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