Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Color of Earth

“Manhwa” is the Korean version of manga, and Kim Dong Hwa is a master of the form. A translation of his successful graphic novel “The Color of Earth” was released this year. It’s done in the style of shunjung, which is geared toward young female readers, but this one has been popular with adults of both genders as well. I was a little shocked to learn that Kim Dong Hwa is male. The story is so sensitively and gracefully told from the female point of view.

It tells the story of Ehwa, a young girl who lives with her widowed mother in a village in Korea. They are extraordinarily close, and attentive and intuitive to one another’s needs and feelings.

In an April interview on Newsarama with Michael Lora, the artist says

“I consider the process of a girl becoming a woman one of the biggest mysteries and wonders of life. And one day when my mother was sleeping in her sickbed, I looked down at her wrinkled face and suddenly realized that she must had been young and beautiful once. Then I started imagining her childhood and youth. What would she have looked like in her 60s, 50s, 40s and etc.? These thoughts inspired me to put my hand to the plow. Ehwa is the result of tracing back my mother’s youth.”

As Ehwa matures and begins to notice the young men in her village, her mother is courted by a wandering pictograph artist. The two fall in love simultaneously, and very differently.

The story unfolds with the help of charming and amusing folklore and metaphors that evoke the natural world. Outstanding line drawings show gorgeous details. It didn’t surprise me at all to learn that Kim Dong is a gardener:

I’m very fond of flowers. My back and front yard are full of flowers. I plant, water, and take care of them whenever I have free time. And I also give each of them a special meaning reflecting my former experiences. The flower and the meaning combine into one united entity, becoming inseparable. When a concept flashes through my mind, I have to find a flower that is related to the concept.

This book was a true visual and emotional escape. Luckily, there are sequels.


Elephant's Eye said...

What delightful illustrations.My sister raved about a childhood book. The ship that flew. so I found a copy and read it. And she said - where are the pictures?

tina said...

Sounds like an interesting book with lots of wonderful illustrations.

our friend Ben said...

Wow, Jen! Looks like a great series. But the author's own sensitivity is more marvelous still!

Joanne said...

I love thoughtful, lovely stories like this one. It seems like a sensitive tribute to his mother as well.

Talon said...

What a charming looking and sounding book! The illustrations are beautiful in their simplicity.

I love his connection to his flowers and how they inspire him. Flowers as a muse - truly unique.

Ronda Laveen said...

I am familiar with Manga but this is the first I've heard of this style. I love that you connect concepts with particular flowers. Very interesting.

PJones said...

Beautiful! Thanks Jen.

JGH said...

Thanks for all the nice comments, guys. This is definitely a genre I'd like to explore more. My husband collects comic books and has lots of graphic novels, but the superhero stuff doesn't interest me as much. If you have any other graphic novels to recommend, I'd love to hear.

June said...

This has been on my list, and your post just made it jump much higher. I cannot wait!