Review of Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese American

Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese American
by Laura Gao; illus. by the author; color and art assistance by Weiwei Xu
High School    Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins    272 pp.    g
3/22    978-0-06-306777-6    $22.99
Paper ed.  978-0-06-306776-9    $14.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-306778-3    $10.99

In this graphic memoir, debut author Gao wrestles with questions about her evolving sense of identity while navigating the frequently choppy waters of growing up. From her early childhood in Wuhan, China, to her years in Texas and later San Francisco, Gao’s memories spring to life: adapting to life in the U.S., struggling with being stereotyped as a math whiz, journeying back to China with her family, dealing with anti-Asian hate during the COVID-19 pandemic, and eventually developing a crush on her first girlfriend. Whether satisfying her craving for White Rabbit Candy (a Chinese confection), reflecting on the Moon Maiden folktale, or imagining a video-game avatar for herself, Gao personalizes her experiences with insight and humor. Through sketched line drawings rendered with often comic expressions and complemented by warm reds and yellows, this book delivers a coming-of-age story that tackles themes of immigration, assimilation, racism, sexuality, and self-identity. An affecting and candid depiction of the universal search for one’s place in the world.

From the March/April 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Jerry Dear

Jerry Dear, information strategist at the San Francisco Public Library, also teaches in the Library Information Technology program at City College of San Francisco. He contributes to the blogs for APALA, Hyphen Magazine, and No Flying No Tights.

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