Halfway Home (Naruhodo Press), by Darien High School Senior Christine Mari Inzer, is a graphic memoir in which the author returns to her former birthplace, “drawing my way through Japan.”
The author will be signing copies of her work at Barrett Bookstore on Nov. 15 at 5 p.m.
Inzer’s book, which took just over a year to write, is a witty and very well-observed journey through her cultural and emotional reactions, encompassing fashion, the Tokyo subway, cultural ceremonies, family, teenagers—Japanese and otherwise—and (of course) Ramen.
From the outset, Inzer notes that she identifies herself as “Asian-American,” but is “Asian and American”: Her mother is Japanese, and her father is American. And this is crucial to the title.
“It’s always been important for me to stress to other people that I’m both Asian and American,” she says. “Because that’s always been how I identify myself—and want to be identified as. I think it’s difficult, though, since naturally when I’m living in one culture—America—I start to lose touch with the other—Japan. …I wouldn’t say I think about it consciously, since it’s who I am; it’s always with me.”
The idea came from her parents, who mentioned she might spend last summer in Japan with her grandparents. She remembers at that time “wanting to do something big” and, upon telling her father, he suggested Inzer write about her trip.
“At first, I thought he was joking,” she says. “But after thinking about how amazing it would be to call myself an author—an actual author—in high school, I was determined to make it happen.”
Of course, writing, though, is “hard work,” she admits. But testimonials from a few of her favorite authors convinced her it was worth it.
“I think, naturally, I’m an artist before I’m a writer,” she says. “And so it was easier to express whatever I was seeing, thinking, or feeling at the moment onto paper through art.”
An assured narratorial voice, however, is evident in Halfway Home. The reader visits spots as divergent as the Temple of the Golden Pavilion and Harajuki (and its at-first puzzling bathroom situation), and Inzer manages to be relatable, charming and vibrant, all at once.
“I’ve always been trying to draw and write as much as I can, from keeping diaries to web comics to novels. …That’s what makes my book so satisfying to me: I finally completed a project I started.”
A sequel isn’t (currently) in the works, as the author is applying to college. Writing and publishing a book, she says, though, make the process of another title appealing.
“I’m currently in the process of applying to college, though I still can’t say right now where I think I’ll be off to,” Inzer says. “I’m interested in studying international relations, and I’d also like to be able to study Japanese.”