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The Magic Fish

Updated: Jun 3, 2022

The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen is a graphic novel that follows a young gay Vietnamese American boy and his mother. The primary story surrounds his struggle to come out to his family with the language barrier since he primarily speaks English while his parents primarily speak Vietnamese. Their struggle to understand each other is illustrated well and bridged with the use of both European and Vietnamese fairy tales.

This is a wonderful book that highlights one of the myriad of experiences of LGBTQ+ Asian Americans.

Part of what makes this book is that the author makes a point of showing the nuances behind both the main character and his mother.

You see a glimpse into the language barrier can cause turmoil within the family. Often media portrays the hardship of White people attempting to understand Asian immigrants but I have never seen it portrayed with how the breakdown in communication can impact a child parent relationship. How Asian American children will lack specific vocabulary to have the deeper conversations around sensitive topics with their parents and the pain this can cause them.

You get a look into the mother's journey that meant she had to leave her family and her heartache at not being able to see them due to the requirements in the US to gain citizenship.

You also get a glimpse into how Christian norms in our schools can be potentially harmful.

All this is folded in organically with whimsical illustrations of the relevant fairy tales.

While I wish the author would have gone further into all these nuances than they did, I understand that it would have taken away from the primary story that they focused on. This is their first book and I look forward to seeing what else they are able to communicate in their future work.

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