Himawari House by Harmony Becker
First Second / Macmillan
Publication Date: October 19, 2021
A young American, Nao, travels across the globe to attend school in Japan and to reconnect with her Japanese heritage. There, she discovers that her desire to fit in is complicated by her Americanness but finds a makeshift sense of belonging with other foreign exchange students Hyejung and Tina, who are also forging their own paths far away from home.
This coming-of-age story accurately captures the joys and pangs of young adulthood and the uncertainty of being caught between two worlds. Teens will find Nao, Hyejung, and Tina’s search for belonging, friendship, and identity both timeless and familiar. The art is at turns humorous and tender, and every character feels fully realized. A strength of this book is Becker‘s effective use of language (often phonetically described) to dismantle reductive and stereotypical ideas of bilingual speakers or speakers with accents. Instead, characters that speak in dialect, with accents, or with uneven syntax are shown to be just as deeply human, complex, and radiant as native or majority language speakers.
Fans of Becker’s art and thoughtful subject matter will also enjoy George Takei’s memoir They Called Us Enemy. Himawari House joins the ranks of influential Asian American graphic novels that traverse the boundaries of identity, language, culture, geography, and time—notably, Displacement by Kiku Hughes, Almost American Girl by Robin Ha, The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen, American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani, and Aspara Engine by Bishakh Som.
Other Nominated Titles
- King Deadpool, v.1: Hail to the King by Kelly Thompson and Chris Bachalo (October 20, 2020)
- King Deadpool, v.2 by Kelly Thompson and Gerardo Sandoval (May 18, 2021)
- Eighty Days by A.C. Esguerra (September 7, 2021)
- Runaways by Rainbow Rowell, v.6: Come Away with Me by Rainbow Rowell, Natacha Bustos, and Andres Genolet (October 5, 2021)
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, v.4: Ring of Fire by Jordie Bellaire and Julian López (October 13, 2020)
The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.
Each week, the teams will feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation will be listed as well. At year’s end, the team will use that list of nominated titles to select a final list and Top Ten. The previous years’ lists are also made available on The Hub.