Advocate: A Graphic Memoir of Family, Community, and the Fight for Environmental Justice

In his courageous debut graphic memoir, Advocate, environmental justice lawyer Eddie Ahn recounts the nonprofit work he has accomplished, as well as his experiences with racism and contending with his immigrant parents' hopes.

Ahn's Korean parents pursued graduate degrees in Texas, where he was born. He grew up helping out in the family's liquor store and, after college, moved to the San Francisco Bay Area as an AmeriCorps teacher. Later, he attended law school and became a nonprofit attorney and the executive director of Brightline Defense, an environmental advocacy group. In this capacity and through roles on local commissions, Ahn influenced clean energy policies. He was also able to impact people's daily lives by delivering food during the Covid-19 lockdowns and installing air quality sensors during California's wildfires in the summer of 2020.

Ahn has a humble, self-deprecating attitude. He relates multiple setbacks such as regrettable sublets, a poker habit, eye surgery, transportation troubles, and racist microaggressions. "I never much believed in hero-driven narratives," Ahn writes, portraying himself as part of a hardworking team. It takes "a quiet kind of grit to carry on, day after day," he acknowledges, particularly when money was so tight, he subsisted on takeout burritos. Indeed, one moving narrative thread follows Ahn's family relationships, especially with his father, who saw material wealth as a mark of success. Gradually, Ahn convinced his parents that public service is its own reward.

Ahn's photorealistic style and monochromatic spreads suit his forthright, chronological storytelling. This memoir is intrepid and revealing about family inheritance and several aspects of social justice: race, money, and the environment. --Rebecca Foster, freelance reviewer, proofreader and blogger at Bookish Beck

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