Graphic Novel Review: Umma’s Table by Yeon-Sik Hong

Umma’s Table by Yeon-Sik Hong. Translated by Janet Hong. Drawn & Quarterly, 2020. 9781770463868. 360pp.

In this follow-up to Hong’s Uncomfortably Happy, South Korean manhwa artist Madang moves to a small house in the outskirts of Paju with his wife (also an artist) and their new son. The focus isn’t on art and making a living, though; it’s on memories, his aging and ailing parents, and his new son. What ties it all together is food — the meals Madang’s mother made him when he was little, and the food Madang himself prepares for his family, much of it made with ingredients grown in their new garden. At once sad and heartwarming, it’s filled with beautiful moments and the reality of trying to help his parents deal with their health problems. One of my favorite moments is near the beginning, when Madang makes kimchi with his mom and he realizes it may be the last time. Equally heartbreaking are his feelings for his father, who continues to drink and place demands on what little energy Madang’s mother has.

This would pair well with Robin Ha’s Cook Korean: A Comic Book with Recipes — there’s not enough detail in most of the meal preparation to qualify this is as a cookbook, but if you’ve had Korean food before it’s guaranteed to make you hungry.


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