Gao, Laura. Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese-American. Balzer + Bray, 2022. 272p. ISBN: 9780063067776 $17.99 HS, OT *****
Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese-American follows Laura Gao from her early years in Wuhan, China to her immigrant childhood experience in Texas, and finally to her college and post-college years where COVID-19 put her previously-unheard-of hometown, Wuhan, in the spotlight.
Throughout this graphic memoir, Laura unpacks her own internalized anti-Asian racism, navigates the complex dynamic of her immigrant family, and explores the intersection of her Chinese and queer identities. Gao also writes with rawness and vulnerability about the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes and their impact on Asian folks during the pandemic. Many readers will relate to her experiences of questioning her identity and trying to figure out her place in her family and in the world.
The title, Messy Roots is perfect for this book, because it’s all about how messy family can be, and how scary, complicated, and fraught it can be to navigate queerness, family, and diasporic identity. Gao’s artwork is the right balance of thoughtful and chaotic, and suits the story well. Messy Roots is perfect for teen readers who enjoy graphic memoirs like Hey Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka or Almost American Girl by Robin Ha. Laura Gao is definitely a comic artist to keep your eye on.
–Ari Nussbaum, Hayward Public Library
Tags: comics, coming of age, diverse, LGBTQ+, nonfiction, people of color