Today I finished my second graphic novel for the month, thereby making it at least one month with my resolution intact.
The second graphic novel I read was Skim, with words by Mariko Tamaki, drawings by Jillian Tamaki. It was published in 2008, by Groundwood Books. The artwork is all in black and white, which works really well for the story of teenage isolation. Kim, the main character, is called Skim by her largely white classmates. The story occurs in Canada, and features an incident in which Kim, and the other Asian attendee at a party are kicked out early. Reflecting on the experience later, she states, “Hien’s parents adopted her from Vietnam two years earlier and she never got invited to parties. Maybe she thought that’s how people left parties in Canada. Asians first” (86). The incident of the party works as a metaphor for her treatment by others throughout the story, as a marginalized and misunderstood figure in her school and homelife. A near affair with an older female teacher also serves to drive a wedge between herself and her best friend, and the suicide of a student in the opening underscores the concerns others seem to feel for Kim.
The starkness of the art does really underscore the text, but this is not a bleak angst – ridden text. There is heartbreak, but there is also the quietly moving story of a teenage girl finding her way, while remaining true to herself. Friendships shift, but Kim also discovers at least one new friend during the story, and continues to create art.
This would be a good addition to a high school collection, ours does carry a YA label that I found appropriate, the text is set in the early 1990’s, and casual smoking is present, as well as explorations of sexuality.