Alexandra Naughton recommends Moms by Yeong-Shin Ma (Drawn + Quarterly, 2020)

“If you can’t be happy or grateful for what you have, that’s misery,” Lee Soyeon says during an internal monologue in the midpoint of Moms, returning to the scene where the book began: a super dramatic and now introspective street fight with very clumsy action between Soyeon and the flower shop lady, one of a few antagonists we meet in Yeong-Shin Ma’s loving tribute to his mother.

Soyeon is a divorced mom in her mid-50s who works a thankless job as part of a janitorial staff and lives with her 30-year-old struggling musician son. She and her friends are all fierce and unique women who have spent the majority of their lives selflessly caring for their families and are now looking for a happiness break. They go out dancing at night, they talk about their current love problems, they encourage each other and look out for one another, they even band together to form a workers union when one of their coworkers is sexually harassed by their boss and then fired from her job.

I ordered Moms several months ago when it was recommended to me by a friend, but I didn’t read it right away, I let it sit on my coffee table. I think I was scared to open it because it’s an inch thick. When I finally cracked open Moms (originally published in 2015 by Humanist Books, Korea and translated by Janet Hong for by Drawn + Quarterly in 2020), I couldn’t put it down. I literally sat in bed all day on Election Day with this book in my lap, fully engrossed and excited to see what Soyeon and her friends would do or say next.

Alexandra Naughton is the author of the novel American Mary (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2016) and ten poetry collections including a place a feeling something he said to you (Spooky Girlfriend Press, 2020), Rapid Transit (Nomadic Press, 2018), and You Could Never Objectify Me More Than I’ve Already Objectified Myself (Punk Hostage Press, 2015). Her work has appeared in Sporklet, Cosmonauts Avenue, Witch Craft Magazine, Everyday Genius, and elsewhere. Find out more at alexandranaughton.com and subscribe to her substack.