Same Difference (fiction)

Sort of rude,
Fairly crude,
Still totally inept at social interaction.

It’s Fun Friday for us, but not so much fun for mid-20s Simon, as a fleeting glimpse of an old high school friend sets off a chain of reminiscences and regrets.

Simon’s high school acquaintances couldn’t even remember that Koreans weren’t Japanese – why did he expect them to show a little respect to Irene who was trying to make her way through the sighted world?

And you’ve got to wonder why Nancy decided to open the letters addressed to the former tenant of her apartment. Did this Sarah really move without a forwarding address to avoid being contacted by Ben? Did Nancy really write back to Ben, pretending to be Sarah!?

Derek won the 2004 Eisner, 2004 Harvey, and 2003 Ignatz Awards with Same Difference as a self-published book; it’s even better in this hardback reissue, published this week with spiffed-up art and Derek’s notes about how he used sites he knew to create an authentic setting for this mostly-not-autobiographical story.

If your local library doesn’t have it yet, head for an independent bookstore to get Same Difference – hope your copy has the cool acetate cover with the fish! Proof again that comics ain’t just for kiddies.

Book info: Same Difference / Derek Kirk Kim. First Second Books, 2011. [author’s website] [author’s blog] [publisher site] [author interview]

Recommendation: Regretting the past is familiar for Simon in his mid-20s, but worrying about his pal Nancy’s offbeat response to misdelivered mail is new territory.

Unexpectedly catching sight of an old friend from his small-town California high school, Simon explains to his friends why he just can’t go talk to her. Even several years after graduation, he feels the pain of being an outsider, a grunge-rock Korean surrounded by waves of belligerent Anglo blockheads.

Irene transferred in during their senior year. Since they had two classes together, sometimes Simon would walk with her to class. Oh, and she was blind, so the local yokels loved to make stupid jokes about that, too. When she hinted about going to the dance together, he bailed out, made an excuse about visiting relatives…but didn’t.

Nancy finally lets Simon know about the mail that’s been coming to her new place – mail from Ben Leland to the last tenant, mail that professes his undying love for Sarah, mail that Nancy opens, week after week, and then answers!

When a package arrives from Ben, Nancy decides that she has to get an actual look at him and wrangles Simon into driving her to Pacifica – Simon’s hometown.

Can they find Ben? Will Nancy really try to take a peek at him? Or contact him? Will Simon cross paths with Irene again and get the nerve to apologize? Sometimes growing up is a lot more difficult than it appears on the surface.

Derek Kirk Kim has successfully melded several episodes of his famed webcomic into a single graphic novel which won several awards as a self-published work. Enjoy this new edition with wacky introduction by fellow West Coast cartoonist Gene Yang, plus Derek’s notes on creating his characters and setting. (Review copy courtesy of the publisher.)

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