I’m not sure where this popped up–I think this was a recommendation after I checked out something else?
This story isn’t very long, but definitely packs a punch. While the main character is Robin, and her journey towards becoming Korean American, an almost equal amount of time is spent with her mother, and her journey through Korean and Korean-American society as a single mother.
For the most part, the story is claustrophobic and limiting. Robin doesn’t speak fluent English, and she’s been dropped into Alabama without so much as a goodbye to her friends back in Seoul. Ha uses both colored text and nonsense characters to symbolize what Book!Robin hears–blue for Korean, black for understood English, and characters for English that she doesn’t understand. The back and forth as she tries to communicate and falls short really hammer home the concept of being limited by language.
Robin is clever, smart, and interesting, but none of that comes across when she can’t be heard. And Ha is clear to show that not being heard can have multiple forms–back home in Seoul, Robin is unheard by teachers who hold grudges against her for having no father (or against her mother for not bribing them). When with her mother, Robin is unheard when her words don’t penetrate the shield that her mother has built to withstand Korean society.
I’d have been happy to read another volume detailing her return to Seoul and her view of Korean society through her new, bicultural roots. As a bicultural (but US-born) person myself, the ability to love your homeland while also having the distance to see its flaws is a double edged sword. I knew that everything would end well for Robin–we’re reading this book, after all–but it was still beyond reassuring when she finally made friends in the US and started to find her bearings