Review of Messy Roots, by Laura Gao

Messy Roots

A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese American

by Laura Gao

Balzer + Bray, 2022. 272 pages.
Review written July 24, 2022, from a library book

Here’s a graphic memoir immigrant story. It’s getting where I feel like I’ve read a lot of these — the life story of a kid who feels very different from their peers and ends up loving art. I’ve read others, but they always pack a punch. In the hands of an artist, a graphic novel (or memoir) is such a wonderful way to express all the emotional weight of their story.

YuYang Gao moved from Wuhan to Texas when she was 4 years old. She’d been living with her grandparents in China, playing with cousins, and didn’t even recognize her parents when she first arrived.

This book tells about her growing up years, trying to fit in, learning about herself and about her heritage, but also being willing to break new ground. In college, she came out as queer and had some challenges telling her family. She moved to San Francisco, where there was a vibrant Asian community.

Then when the pandemic hit, Americans had finally heard of Wuhan, but not in a good way. San Francisco, that had been so welcoming, had new dangers.

It’s all done with striking, brightly-colored art, with lots of variety in the images and panels. She brings you along on her story with all the confusions but comforts of her background combined with the life she’s building for herself.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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