Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Color of Earth


In celebration of my move to Seoul, I read Kim Dong Hwa's graphic novel, The Color of Earth. This first entry in a trilogy tells the story of Ehwa, a young rural girl, and her mother, Namwon, a widow who runs a tavern.

Hwa focuses on the coming of age of Ehwa, who is naturally curious about sexuality. Over the course of seven years, she learns about how men and women differ, usually through innocent questions asked of her mother. Due to her business, Namwon knows more than most about the ways of men. In fact, she spends much of the book brushes off crude comments from her customers. When a traveling salesman passes through the village, she is offered a chance to love.

I found Namwon's honesty with her daughter to be refreshing, especially in such an isolated village in the past. This is definitely a book to read for yourself before sharing with any students, as some parents aren't as open as Namwon!

My favorite part of the book was the illustrations. Hwa juxtaposes two styles of drawing: the manga-like renderings of the characters and the nature that they live in. The scenes of the Korean countryside are absolutely gorgeous and so exciting to me. The amount of detail that went into these illustrations is staggering.

Hwa's use of natural metaphors adds so much to the narrative. Possibly due to the time period of the book, he uses flowers to describe women, describes the gingko tree and how it relates to human sex, and interesting fruits and vegetables to substitute for human anatomy! I enjoyed getting this insight into a slice of Korean history.

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