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Umma’s Table: Yeon-sik Hong in conversation with Paul Gravett

For the KCC’s August literature event, cartoonist Yeon-sik Hong and the Comics curator Paul Gravett will join for a live virtual talk about Umma’s table. Following the talk, Yeon-sik Hong will respond to questions from the audience.

Umma’s Table

by Yeon-sik Hong, translated by Janet Hong
Yeon-sik Hong in conversation with Comics curator Paul Gravett
Wednesday 25 August 2021, 12 noon via Zoom
Registration required by 10 August

Umma's TableMadang is an artist and new father who moves to a quiet home in the countryside with his wife and young baby, excited to build a new life full of hope and joy, complete with a garden and even snow. But soon reality sets in and his attention is divided between his growing happy family and his impoverished parents back in Seoul in a dingy basement apartment. With an ailing mother in and out of the hospital and an alcoholic father, Madang struggles to overcome the exhaustion and frustration of trying to be everything all at once: a good son, devoted father, and loving husband.

To cope, he finds himself reminiscing about their family meals together, and particularly his mother’s kimchi, a traditional dish that is prepared by the family and requires months of fermentation Memories of his mother’s glorious cooking—so good it would prompt a young Madang and his brother into song—soothe the family. With her impending death, Madang races to learn her recipes and bring together the three generations at the family table while it’s still possible. A beautiful and thoughtful meditation on how the kitchen and communal cooking—both past, present and future—bind a family together amidst the inevitable.

Yeon-Sik Hong was born in 1971. He began apprenticing in a manga studio in 1990, and wrote his first short stories (in comics form) in 1992, but commercial projects kept him from his personal work for another decade. In 2005, Hong and his partner tried to move to the countryside. Two years later, Hong began work on a graphic novel inspired by these experiences. Uncomfortably, Happily was published in two volumes in 2012: it quickly became a critical success, going back for a second printing and receiving the Manhwa Today Award. While they’d still like to move back to the countryside someday, for now Yeon-Sik Hong and his partner are living on the outskirts of Seoul.

Paul Gravett is a writer, critic, curator, publisher and broadcaster who has been working in the comics industry since 1981. He is author of many books about comics, including Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese Comics, Graphic Novels: Stories to Change Your Life and Comics Art, and was general editor of 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die. He is co-director of Comica, the London International Comics Festival.