cover image Himawari House

Himawari House

Harmony Becker. First Second, $24.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-250-23557-2

Recent high school graduate Nao, 19, who is half-Japanese, Japan-born, and Midwest-raised, decides to spend a gap year at Tokyo-based sharehouse Himawari House to reconnect with her roots. Soon, Nao meets her housemates: Hyejung, a studious college-age Korean woman; Tina, a buoyant 25-year-old Chinese Singaporean; and two Japanese brothers, personable, bespectacled Shinichi and standoffish, curly-haired Masaki. As Nao reassimilates, she is relieved to discover that Hyejung and Tina speak English (Tina’s Singlish is “like English but deluxe flavor”). The process of language learning, the way language can define identity, and multilingual experiences are lovingly illuminated in mostly translated Japanese, Korean, and English, with smudges denoting words lost in translation; characters’ accents are respectfully rendered phonetically. Those familiar with Asian culture will recognize how richly the narrative is steeped, including manga and manhwa onomatopoeia, nods to food, Asian pop culture, the konbini franchise Lawson, and more. Those unfamiliar will appreciate the fluid, expressive cast, rendered in playfully shifting manga styles, and the intricately sketched scenery. In this stunningly layered graphic novel debut, Becker crafts a warmly actualized world in which the multiplicities of diasporic Asian identity are examined and held close. Back matter includes an author’s note about accents. Ages 14–up. (Nov.)