Drawn & Quarterly. Aug. 2019. 480p. ISBN 9781770463622. pap. $29.95. memoir
When she was a child, Granny Lee Ok-sun’s impoverished parents sold her to the owner of an udon shop in Busan, who put her to work as a domestic servant. A few years later, at age 15, she was kidnapped while out running errands, loaded onto a train, and delivered to a military base in occupied China, where she spent the remainder of World War II enduring barbaric treatment as a “comfort woman” for soldiers in the Japanese Imperial Army. Instead of presenting a straightforward biography of Ok-sun, South Korean cartoonist Gendry-Kim (De Case En Case) employs a nonlinear narrative structure that flashes between her own impressions of Ok-sun—with whom she conducted a series of interviews in 2015—and Ok-sun’s firsthand account of her imprisonment and struggle to move forward after being released at the end of the war. The result is a deeply moving evocation of how decades later Ok-sun continues to process the degradation and despair she survived.
VERDICT Gendry-Kim’s thoughtful storytelling and exquisite brushwork brilliantly convey Ok-sun’s story, producing an uncommonly powerful reading experience about one woman’s enduring struggle for agency over her own life and body.
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