Umma’s Table

Yeon-Sik Hong, trans. from the Korean by Janet Hong. Drawn & Quarterly, $29.95 (360p) ISBN 978-1-77046-386-8
In this mature and nuanced follow-up to Hong’s graphic memoir Uncomfortably Happy, the artist and his wife are still living a poor but mostly contented life in the South Korean countryside. They now have a baby, Iwan, and Hong imagines the home they’ve built together as a tiny, idyllic private planet; all the characters are represented as cartoon cats. But the larger world intrudes in the form of Hong’s aging parents, who share a grim basement apartment in Seoul and are starting to require constant care. Having worked hard to escape his father’s alcoholic abuse and his mother’s depression, Hong feels that “only beyond my parents’ reach is my world free to grow.” But he comes to appreciate how the work he does to support his wife and child—cooking, gardening, raising chickens, making kimchi for the winter—grows from an urge to nurture passed down from his mother. “Almost every memory I have of my mother begins with her cooking,” he reflects, and food provides a link between Hong’s two worlds. In Hong’s cheerful drawings, the countryside bursts with life, and his culinary escapades are a jubilant theatrical sequence. But even as the narrative grows darker, the simple, friendly art remains surprisingly effective. This moving story about being both a parent and a child represents a creative leap forward for one of Korea’s up and coming contemporary comic artists. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 11/27/2019
Release date: 04/07/2020
Genre: Comics
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