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Messy Roots

--Staff Picks Teens

Messy Roots

Laura Gao
Published: 2022
Age Range: Teen

This coming of age graphic memoir tells how Laura Gao immigrated to Texas from Wuhan, China when she was about 4 years old. It was quite the culture shock – no one could pronounce her name or where she was from. She eventually decided she wanted an Americanized name and chose Laura for herself.

Growing up was hard – she was one of very few Asian students at her school, and she had nothing in common with the others. Her parents wanted her to attend Chinese school so she could stay connected to her culture, but she wanted to distance herself from it. She just wanted to play basketball and fit in with the other students. She still loved Wuhan though and going back to visit her grandparents and cousins was the wake up call she needed.

And then came COVID-19. Suddenly everyone knew the name Wuhan, and it wasn’t for reasons Laura would hope so. Soon, she and her brother found themselves targets of anti-Asian hate. She was scared to go out, and she was terrified for her family back home.

This was a really fantastic book. While parts of it are heavy in nature, it’s also quite humorous. Gao has a great voice and her artwork compliments it well. I, probably like many Americans, had never heard of Wuhan before the pandemic so it was nice to learn more about it in a positive light from a person who loves it dearly.