Panel Discussion is a monthly book club for adults where we discuss comics and graphic novels. We've been meeting virtually since last year, so I decided to start a zine to recapture part of the physical connection we've lost. From time to time I'll be posting reviews and articles featured in the zine to the blog, but if you'd like a physical copy of Panel Discussion, or if you'd like to join our monthly meeting, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here's a review from the latest issue.
There’s a scene early in this book where a group of students gathered to watch an illicit newscast are tear gassed by police. Fleeing the scene, eyes stinging, the character Hoon says, “As soon as you open your eye, they find a way to close them again.”
He’s speaking to Hyun Sook, the author whose experiences under South Korea’s repressive military regime inspired this book. After meeting Hoon in a dance class, he invites her to a book club with some of his friends. The book club isn’t dedicated to cozy mysteries, however: their selections are all books banned by the regime. This turns out to be Hyun Sook’s entry into the world of activism, and getting tear gassed is her first lesson about the dangers of her government’s oppression. Her innocence, ignorance, and unwillingness to join in the political struggle crumbles as these lessons mount.
I was touched, charmed, enlightened, and surprised by this book. It acts as a primer on South Korean history as well as a kind of light political thriller. It is filled with humor, heart, and hope, and it reminds us that protest isn’t just an effective tool against oppression, it’s necessary. More than anything it shows us how works of radical literature – Noam Chomsky, Betty Friedan, even Shakespeare – can open the eyes of the oppressed. You can add this book to that list.