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Cover of Almost American Girl
A review of Almost American Girl by Robin Ha

Sometimes it can take a lifetime to understand a flashpoint decision which changes your life completely.

Sometimes the biggest pivot you take in life is one you do not choose yourself.

For cartoonist and memoirist Robin Ha, there is life before age 14, in South Korea---a life of solid academic achievement, good friends, favorite comics, and a proud role as her mother’s “warrior apprentice” in the fight to gain respect as a single mother running her own business.

Then, FLASH.

There is life after age 14, in America.

She finds herself in the “endless flatlands” of Huntsville, Alabama. Her mother’s decision to uproot them and blend their duo with a new family, challenges Robin’s trust. She does her best to fit in, but feels isolated, angry, and depressed as she struggles to find a place within her new family, new school, new life.

Robin faces a lot of challenges that will be familiar to teens of any background: forging friendships, facing bullies, and gaining independence. Yet, in addition, she has the added burdens of learning a new language, dealing with racist classmates, and adjusting to a foreign culture.

Readers will empathize with her struggles both as a sensitive teen, and as a resilient immigrant caught between identities. They will also enjoy Robin Ha’s clear and detailed illustrations and natural dialogue. Readers who are fans of the graphic novels, American Born Chinese and Hey Kiddo, may particularly connect with this memoir.

As Robin circles back to reflect on her experiences with her motherland and her homeland, the reader can see her gain a better understanding of her mother’s actions and the flashpoint decision that ultimately leads her to her rewarding present life as an artist, and a self possessed South Korean American woman.

--reviewed by Kristin B - Lakeview Library

May 1, 2020