book thoughts: The Color of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa (2003/2009)

In rural Korea, some time ago, young Ehwa lived with her widowed mother.  She is an innocent child, believing everything she is told by her friends and many days she wanders home, deep in thought about their stories.  But soon her mother sets her straight, the rain comes, and Ehwa feels a little older.

The easiest way to describe the story of ‘The Color of the Earth’ would be to say it is the Gilmore Girls in rural Korea.  Ehwa and her mother have this beautiful relationship and while the book mostly focuses on Ehwa’s coming-of-age story, there is a large part devoted to her mother and her life as a widow in a small town. 

But there is a lot more to it than that, as I found by reading last few pages of the U.S. edition.  Originally published in Korea in 2003, Color of the Earth was a groundbreaking manhwa (Korean for graphic novel) because of its focus telling the story of being a woman through female characters, a very feminist comic in a genre that tended to focus on the masculine world. 

The artwork is gorgeous, and it helps that the book is about the size of a normal hardback so the images have plenty of room to breathe.  One page might have a quick succession of panels, the next might be a two page spread of Ehwa wandering through a field with peach blossoms dancing around her in the wind. 

This is the first book in a trilogy – The Color of Water and The Color of Heaven are the next two volumes.  I cannot wait to read the other two stories to see where life takes Ehwa as she matures from child to adult. 

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