Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese-American
Author: Laura Gao
Published: March 8, 2022 by Balzer + Bray
Goodreads Summary: After spending her early years in Wuhan, China, riding water buffalos and devouring stinky tofu, Laura immigrates to Texas, where her hometown is as foreign as Mars–at least until 2020, when COVID-19 makes Wuhan a household name.
In Messy Roots, Laura illustrates her coming-of-age as the girl who simply wants to make the basketball team, escape Chinese school, and figure out why girls make her heart flutter.
Insightful, original, and hilarious, toggling seamlessly between past and present, China and America, Gao’s debut is a tour de force of graphic storytelling.
Ricki’s Review: I read this book last year and immediately knew I wanted to use it in my class. It fit into so many topics that we discuss in class, and it is a powerful memoir. Gao offers a nuanced look at discrimination, specifically against Wuhanese Americans related to COVID-19, and she also offers insight into issues that many immigrants face in the US. I love the book description that she is trying to figure out “why girls make her heart flutter.” Gao’s sexuality is a part of the book, but it isn’t the plot driver. This normalization is important in literature, and I think readers expect that when a character is LGBTQ, it will be the main focus of the text. Instead, Gao’s life—told with a great level of humor, even when topics are tough—is depicted through images and words in a way that will connect with readers.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: It would be interesting to have students depict the themes of this book visually.
- What are some of the themes of this text?
- How does Gao integrate images and words to tell her story?
- What aspects of this book connected with you?
- What did you learn about discrimination related to Wuhanese Americans?