Almost American Girl: An Illustrated Memoir
by Robin Ha
* * * * Stars (Great!)
Robin Ha gets a most unwelcome surprise when her single mother decides to turn their “vacation” into a permanent situation by marrying a man she barely knows who lives all the way across the world – moving them from South Korea to Alabama one summer. Robin is devastated. She’s only 14, speaks very little English, and has left all of her friends behind in Korea WITHOUT A WORD, because her mom didn’t TELL her about any of her plans!!! (Robin has a lot of emotions in this memoir.) When school starts, Robin’s step-cousin is supposed to help show her around, but she’s impatient and embarrassed by Robin and ditches her as soon as possible. Robin is left pretty much to her own devices to make friends and navigate her classes. She has some teachers who are more understanding and sympathetic than her mother or step-family and they help her develop her language skills, but it’s not until Robin takes a class at a local comic shop (where she can share her passion for art and comics) that she makes her first real friend in America. Shortly thereafter, Robin’s mother informs her that they’re moving again – this time to Virginia – to escape their in-laws and her marriage/husband, which isn’t working out. More drama ensues. But, Virginia turns out to be a much better place for both of them. Robin attends a school for international students – many of who are also learning to speak English – and she makes a lot of friends (especially among some of the Korean girls). Robin’s memoir is interesting in a lot of ways – as a look at South Korean culture and beliefs, as an immigration story, and as snapshot of teenage life.
Reviewed by YA Librarian