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The Naked Tree

The Naked Tree

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By Keum Suk Gendry-Kim. Published by Drawn & Quarterly. 

Softcover, 316 pages, B&W, 2023 

A delicate, timeless, and breathtaking coming-of-age classic, reimagined 

Critically acclaimed and award-winning cartoonist Keum Suk Gendry-Kim returns with a stunning addition to her body of graphic fiction rooted in Korean history. Adapted from Park Wan-suh’s beloved novel, The Naked Treepaints a stark portrait of a single nation’s fabric slowly torn to shreds by political upheaval and armed conflict. Fleshing out the characters in fresh, imaginative ways, and incorporating the original author into the story, Gendry-Kim breathes new life into this Korean classic.

The year is 1951. Twenty-year-old wallflower Lee Kyeonga ekes out a living at the US military Post Exchange where goods and services of varying stripes are available for purchase. She peddles hand-painted portraits on silk handkerchiefs to soldiers passing through. When a handsome, young  northern escapee and erstwhile fine artist is hired despite waning demand, an unlikely friendship blossoms into a young woman’s first brush with desire against the backdrop of the Korean War at its most devastating. 

Gendry-Kim brings a masterpiece of world literature to life with bold, expressive lines that capture a denuded landscape brutally forced into transition and the people who must find their way back to each other within it. The Naked Tree is exquisitely translated by award-winning expert Janet Hong.

"Told through gorgeously balanced brushstrokes."—Michael Cavna and Jacob Brogan, The Washington Post

"Gendry-Kim... prov[es] yet again that she’s an essential voice in global comics. [This is] a masterful and devastating portrait of the lasting cruelties of wartime."—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

"Gendry-Kim’s work, as always, remains uniquely her own—immersive, potent, enduring."—ALA Booklist, Starred Review

"So much of this flowing, poetic graphic novel remains unspoken... what lingers are images of small figures plodding through dark, snowy nights and the contours of an empty, echoing family home."—Library Journal, Starred Review

"[E]xceptionally adapted and illustrated... a compelling look at friendship, love, art and peace."—Ms. Magazine

"Readers who want to deepen their understanding of war, trauma, and Korean history will find much to treasure—and remember—in The Naked Tree."—Graphic Medicine

"Gendry-Kim breathes new life into Park’s much lauded and nuanced study of families struggling with loss, poverty, and the erasure of social bonds."—Lindsay Pereira, Broken Frontier

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