Home National museum The National Museum of Women in the Arts Hosts a Virtual Conversation with Graphic Novelist Robin Ha

The National Museum of Women in the Arts Hosts a Virtual Conversation with Graphic Novelist Robin Ha

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Graphic novelist Robin Ha makes it easy to cook complex recipes. Which started with expressing her passion for cooking by posting a weekly recipe comic about her tumblr blog became a New York Times best-selling graphic novel cookbook.

Ha discussed her stories, novels, and creative process during NMWA xChangea free virtual conference that dives deep into the creative processes and journeys of artists.

In his first graphic novel,Cook Korean! A comic book with recipesthe brightly colored ingredients seem to jump off the page and encourage readers to cook Ha’s family recipes highlighted in the novel.

“I realized that cooking could be kind of like another method to express my creativity and nourish myself,” Ha said. The cookbook also includes stories, geography and history showing that a cookbook can be educational and interactive.

Ha immigrated to the United States at age 14 from Seoul, South Korea. Her second graphic novel is a memoir titled “Almost American Girl.” The novel reflects Ha’s own story of immigrating to the United States as a teenager with her mother. Both of Ha’s graphic novels are featured in the NMWA Libraries.

Ha first discovered the world of comics in Seoul. Her mother was a hairdresser and often sent her to art school as a child. She taught her to read comics when she was very young. While her mother was working in the mall, Ha would go to comic book rental stores and spend hours reading comic books.

“I completely fell in love with it, so I couldn’t think of anything else to do with my life but read and draw comics,” Ha said.

Although “Almost American Girl” is a memoir, one of the novel’s main tropes puts a spin on a superhero story. Ha draws herself as a superhero throughout the novel and even had a classic hero moment where she chose a new name.

Ha never liked his birth name; in Korea, it was considered “old fashioned” and she made fun of her name in school. After moving to the United States, she used an old school yearbook to choose a new name. “I did eenie meenie meenie mo because I didn’t know which one to choose,” Ha said.

As a teenager, she felt like the “main character in a comic book” because of the excitement of moving to a new place. Featuring a superhero protagonist may reflect the true bravery people show when moving to a new country without knowing the language or culture.

“I wanted people to have hope, in general, you know, I remember feeling really hopeless at that age. I think people reading, especially if they’re teenagers going through a similar experience, I want them to know things are going to get better,” Ha said.

Ha’s next graphic novel takes a new direction. With a working title, “fox girls“, it contains fantasy, action, thriller and romance. The main character is loosely based on the popular Korean folklore character Gumiho, but takes a new twist on a common character.

Ha thinks most romances with a woman end the same way and I wanted to write and draw something more relevant.

“I wanted to show how this character goes through his environment and how he ends up, not with everything he hopes to have, but still making sense of his identity and his life and still finding some kind of happiness in it. Because that’s what I struggle with. I’m sure that’s what everyone is struggling with. Right?” Ha said.

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