Umma's Table

Yeon-Sik Hong (Author) Janet Hong (Translator)


The joy of food and tradition unites a family faltering in the face of illness and loss

Madang 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, 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. This is a beautiful and thoughtful meditation on how the kitchen and communal cooking--in the past, present, and future--bind a family together amidst the inevitable.

Product Details

$29.95  $26.96
Drawn & Quarterly
Publish Date
April 07, 2020
6.2 X 1.2 X 8.2 inches | 1.6 pounds
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About the Author

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. His graphic novel about moving to the countryside, Uncomfortably Happily, was released to great acclaim in Korea in 2012 and translated into English by Drawn & Quarterly in 2017. He and his partner now live on the outskirts of Seoul.


The narrative [of Uncomfortably Happily] is surprisingly gripping...the mix of pathos and buoyant humor--as well as charming and three-dimensional characterization--keep you engrossed. Plus, the artwork is fantastic, mixing cartoony, almost Lynda Barry-ish figure work with stunningly evocative and impressionistic landscapes.--Vulture

[Uncomfortably Happily] is a pleasure to read, with the creative and striking artwork and the focus on inner and outer struggles ensuring it's an engrossing read.--The Quietus

Uncomfortably Happily is a candid, engrossing tale...quietly charming.--The Atlantic

[Uncomfortably Happily is an] extraordinary comic-book memoir...Hong uses manga-influenced line work to bring the youthful enthusiasm of his characters to life. He anatomizes the quotidian details of marriage but also finds time for comedic flights of fancy, including frequent musical numbers.--Slate

Hong's drawings are beautiful and interesting, and there's something successful about the melancholy tempered with realism that [his work] conveys.--Paste

Brilliantly illustrated in black and white, which veers from minimal slices of everyday life to more intricate, elaborate flights of fancy...But for the most part, [Uncomfortably Happily] is full of levity.--GQ