By Yeong-Shin Ma. Published by Drawn & Quarterly.
Softcover, 372 pages, B&W, 2020.
An outrageously funny book about middle-aged women that reexamines romance, lust, and gender norms
Translated from Korean by Janet Hong
Lee Soyeon, Myeong-ok, and Yeonjeong are all mothers in their mid-fifties. And they’ve had it. They can no longer bear the dead weight of their partners or the endless grind of menial jobs where their bosses control everything, down to how much water they can drink. Although Lee Soyeon divorced her husband years ago after his gambling drove their family into bankruptcy, she’s found herself in another tired and dishonest decade-long relationship with Jongseok, a slimy waiter at a nightclub. Meanwhile, Myeong-ok is having an illicit affair with a younger man, and Yeonjeong, whose husband suffers from erectile dysfunction, has her eye on an acquaintance from the gym.
Bored with conventional romantic dalliances, these women embrace outrageous sexual adventures and mishaps, ending up in nightclubs, motels, and even the occasional back-alley brawl.
With this boisterous and darkly funny manhwa, Yeong-shin Ma defies the norms of the traditional Korean family narrative, offering instead the refreshingly honest and unfiltered story of a group of middle-aged moms who yearn for something more than what the mediocre men in their lives can provide. Despite their less than desirable jobs, salaries, husbands, and boyfriends, these women brazenly bulldoze their way through life with the sexual vulnerability and lust typically attributed to twenty-somethings.
Janet Hong is a writer and translator based in Vancouver, Canada. She received the 2018 TA First Translation Prize for her translation of Han Yujoo’s The Impossible Fairy Tale, which was also a finalist for both the 2018 PEN Translation Prize and the 2018 National Translation Award. She has translated Ha Seong-nan’s Flowers of Mold, Ancco’s Bad Friends, Keum-Suk Gendry Kim’s Grass, and Yeon-Sik Hong’s Umma’s Table.
Praise for Moms
Seeming at first unconventional, one gets the sense that the women in Moms are not necessarily so; Ma simply affords them the type of interiority not usually granted to their demographic, while providing a warts-and-all look at long-term female friendships.Winnipeg Free Press
[A] hilarious, refreshingly honest graphic novel.WePresent
It’s extremely relatable, because the character work is so strong. All their hopes and flaws keep the narrative running, and its power increases when we see how badly people can treat each other... D&Q keeps bringing treasures from around the world to Canada. Long may that continue.The Toronto Star
A graphic novel that includes a fight scene between two women in their 50s? Yes, please. The illustrations make you feel a little bit less dead inside, and the narrative of life’s consecutive disappointments has a strange levity.TED, Holiday Book List
Moms is valuable, amusing and absorbing but, most of all, unapologetically honest... [It's] a brave and unique collaboration between a mother and son that breaks new ground for the kinds of stories that can be told not just in comics but any visual medium.Spectrum Culture
This 2020 release is an instant classic... a bold and Herculean feat that humorously and sadly covers a vast array of emotions in stark detail and excellent character design.SOLRAD's Best Comics of 2020
A portrait of womanhood and middle-age, where all the women are bright and brash, both victims and fighters.Sian Cain, The Guardian
[Moms] illuminates subjects twice overlooked: the urban precariat that every country tends to ignore, and more specifically the interior lives of middle-aged working women trying to navigate the margins of late capitalism.Scroll.In
What a remarkable, joyous book. Our culture, like his, is hell-bent on rendering middle-aged women invisible, and yet here are four of them, their lives not only filling every single page of this comic, but brought to us with such intimacy.Rachel Cooke, The Guardian
The people and events in Soyeon’s life are often disappointing but she perseveres as a sardonic, stubborn hero who finds contentment in her imperfect relationships and life’s mundane drama.NPR Best of 2020
Moms is a refreshing look at the lives of a group of gutsy middle-aged women who, in the face of adversity, hold fast to their hopes and dreams.Montreal Review of Books
I... just finished reading Moms by Yeong-shin Ma. It’s a graphic novel about a bunch of women in their early 50s that I thought was really, really beautiful.Mona Chalabi, New York Times
One thing in particular that makes Moms stand out from other manhwa in translation (and honestly many other comics in general) is the focus of its narrative—the lives and loves of mothers in their fifties.Manga Bookshelf
Offering a unique account of contemporary Korea and the world from the perspective of women who might otherwise be overlooked, [Moms] would be a solid addition to any adult collection.Library Journal
All I ask from a comic is that it have compelling characters in interesting situations. That’s what Yeong-shin Ma does with this tragicomedy about four desperate women in Seoul.London Free Press, Top Picks of 2020
This book re-examines romance, lust and gender norms for middle-aged women.International Examiner
By centering the book around women, especially mothers, Ma asks a very powerful question: How do we exercise our potential to be so much more apart from everyone and everything we’ve ever known?CNMN Magazine
[Moms] portrays mundane lives that become extraordinary in the telling.Comic Book Resources
[The characters'] greatest challenge, like people everywhere at every age, is loneliness—but even that can’t stop Ma’s fearsome mothers from living their best possible lives.Booklist, Starred Review
The moms in Moms are grasping, funny, gross, weird, sad—in other words, they’re a lot more interesting and relatable than middle-aged mothers in pop culture are usually allowed to be... This is a book with bite.Book Riot Best Comics of 2020
Moms by Yeong-shin Ma... presents a very real perspective of middle-aged women often not seen... as Moms shows, these ladies experience excitement, dreams, and struggles that too often are overlooked.BlogCritics
I couldn’t put it down. I literally sat in bed all day on Election Day with this book in my lap, fully engrossed and excited to see what Soyeon and her friends would do or say next.Alexandra Naughton, The Authors Gild
Yeong-shin Ma writes with great sympathy of the struggles of these middle-aged women, portrayed as humans and not caricatures.Asian Review of Books