Graphic Novel Review: Palimpsest: Documents from a Korean Adoption by Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom
Posted on March 19, 2020 at 11:07 am by Gene Ambaum
Palimpsest: Documents from a Korean Adoption by Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom. Translated by Hanna Strömberg, Richey Wyver, and Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom. Drawn & Quarterly, 2019. 9781770463301. 156pp including a postscript and notes on selected panels and pages.
Sjöblom was adopted from South Korea by a family in Sweden in 1979. During and after the birth of her second child, she thinks about when she was born, her birth mother, and her early life when she was handed to strangers in a place she couldn’t understand a word who renamed her Lisa. She does an amazing job showing how everyone tried to make her feel about her adoption and her place in Swedish society without ever asking how she felt. As her Korean-ness was erased she was constantly reminded that she didn’t fit in, and even attacked. After escaping high school and moving away from home, she started looking into the story of her adoption, including what it meant and how it affected her. I’m so glad she made it through her darker moments and has produced this graphic novel, which everyone in my family is going to read.
Much of the book is a detailed account of Sjöblom and her partner trying to find out as much as they can about her past. Various agencies involved in her adoption (or in recording it) seem determined to keep documents from them because of what the documents reveal not only about shady adoption practices but about Sjöblom’s biological parents. But their tenacity pays off, and they get help from unexpected government offices and agencies, and in the end they learn quite a bit. Their trip to South Korea at the end of the book is riveting.