It’s National Library Week (ok, so it’s barely the last day, but still) and the American Library Association released its list of the Top 10 most challenged books of 2011. One in particular caught my eye: The Color of Earth (part of a manhwa series) by Kim Dong Hwa. It’s a period piece about a young girl’s coming of age, from first loves to first heartbreaks, as she lives an almost sequestered life with her single mother, a tavern lady. How did I miss this one?
There are three books in this Color Trilogy – The Color of Earth, The Color of Water, and The Color of Heaven – and I want to read them all. Ehwa (any relation to the famous women’s college?) is a young girl who lives in a small rural village in Korea in the hazy past (they still wear hanboks) with her widowed mother, Namwon. The series starts with her at age 7 and continues along till she becomes a young woman. Along the way mother and daughter both experience love and heartbreak, and throughout they share everything with each other. Men come and go in their lives, such as monks, wrestlers, and artistic traveling salesmen, and Ehwa learns how complicated, painful, and wonderful love can be.
I don’t really understand why people would challenge this since it sounds pretty wholesome to me (even with the nudity and stuff like that). But it’s kind of funny to imagine librarians trying to buy books like this or Ranma and getting really confused. I won’t go into how lame banning books is, but I will say that those people who fought so hard to have this title banned would be gratified to know that I only knew about this series from that handy list of challenged books.
Kim Dong Hwa is one of the most respected names in the manhwa world, having created titles such as My Sky, his 1975 debut work. So, is he like the Korean Osamu Tezuka, or something? Kim’s known for writing a lot of stories from a female perspective, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. His mother semi-inspired this series: he talked about how he once looked at his mother’s wrinkled face and realized that she must have been young and beautiful once. That might have been more touching if I hadn’t just seen Wild Romance where the ahjumma says something similar about youth and beauty. It wasn’t very touching then.
I haven’t read many manhwa, but given the plot and the drawing style I’m guessing I’ll really like this series anyway. Press releases compared it to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn which sets the bar pretty high, I think, but I’m optimistic. I’ve flipped through a few manhwa series after watching their drama adaptations, like Full House and Goong, but I never really connected with them. There have to be good manhwa series out there, right? Right?
Also, where is the drama version of this? Maybe the quiet, slice-of-life storytelling wouldn’t lend itself well to the razzle dazzle of dramas, but why not? There’s even class angst in this story since people look down on her mother for being widowed and running a tavern – what drama doesn’t like angst and uncomfortable class issues? I can totally see it as a much better period piece than those endless war ones like King Geunchogo. I’m sure librarians would be happy to know that if this was made into a drama, I’d totally watch it.
I finally read and reviewed all three voulmes!