Talk about a story that pulls at the heart-strings! While The Waiting is "fictional," it is loosely based on that of the author's own family history; focused particularly on that of her mother, who fled to what is now South Korea during the onset of the Korean War that divided the country. Told through a framing bracket of the daughter/author's relationship (á la Maus) the mother's story gradually unspools in page after page of well composed comics, affectingly employing bold brushwork. Starting with the mother's harsh yet still bucolic childhood under the Japanese occupation, which was filled with its own sorrows, the story takes an abrupt turn with the start of hostilities between the Soviet and Chinese-backed North and the US-backed South, and the mother is forced to flee, along with her own, newly formed family. While the story focuses on one extended family, it can easily be read as a stand-in for the experience – and tragedy – of Korea as a whole. Reader's familiar with Korea's twentieth century history will probably already have some idea of the rough outlines that this narrative will take, but we'll nevertheless refrain from giving them away here, so as to not take away any of the impact.
Translated from the Korean by Janet Hong
Adapted from Park Wan-Suh's acclaimed 1970 novel of the same name, The Naked Tree is the latest of Keum Suk Gendry-Kim's graphic novels personalizing traumatic wartime experiences on the Korean peninsula, following Grass and The Waiting; all translated by Janet Hong and published by D & Q. It is effective in providing a sense of life during wartime, particularly – but not only – for its young female protagonist. Interactions with American soldiers – who are simultaneously protective defenders and alien occupiers – also play an important role in the drama, which, ultimately, focuses on the effects of trauma as it moves through the stages of repression, cathexis and catharsis.
D & Q has posted a six-page preview, HERE.
And this work has been reviewed from a medical point of view, with a focus on the nature of trauma and PTSD, at the website Graphic Medicine, HERE.