Review: The Magic Fish

the magic fish

Title: The Magic Fish
Author: Trung Le Nguyen
Genres:  Graphic novel
Pages: 256
Publisher: Random House Graphic
Review Copy: Purchased
Availability: Available now!

Summary: Tiến loves his family and his friends…but Tiến has a secret he’s been keeping from them, and it might change everything. An amazing YA graphic novel that deals with the complexity of family and how stories can bring us together.

Real life isn’t a fairytale. But Tiến still enjoys reading his favorite stories with his parents from the books he borrows from the local library. It’s hard enough trying to communicate with your parents as a kid, but for Tiến, he doesn’t even have the right words because his parents are struggling with their English. Is there a Vietnamese word for what he’s going through?

Is there a way to tell them he’s gay? A beautifully illustrated story by Trung Le Nguyen that follows a young boy as he tries to navigate life through fairytales, an instant classic that shows us how we are all connected. The Magic Fish tackles tough subjects in a way that accessible with readers of all ages, and teaches us that no matter what—we can all have our own happy endings.

Review: Full disclosure, I pre-ordered The Magic Fish months ago because every time Trung Le Nguyen’s art came up on my Twitter feed, it was breathtaking. Incredible art and a fairy tale focus? I was on board right away… and I’m so glad I was.

The Magic Fish is something special. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — it really feels like we’re living in a golden age of queer graphic novel storytelling. From Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me to Witchy and Mooncakes, there’s just so much incredible stuff that’s released in recent years. The Magic Fish is in good company — it tells the story of young Tiến as he struggles to find the right words to tell his parents that he’s gay, all among the backdrop of grief and loss, and fairy tales, in their many forms.

It’s a beautiful read, and the way the story unfolds — visually and narratively — is an impressive feat. The Magic Fish expresses so much of what I’ve struggled to articulate to myself about what it means to be a child of immigrants, to struggle with language barriers, to find solace in fairy tales and faraway lands, while trying to find a story where I belong.

The Magic Fish is a must-read. Not to get sentimental, but reading The Magic Fish as a queer Asian American was so comforting, and for that reason, I want everyone to read it. Look, it’s good! Read it!

Recommendation: Buy it now! This is such a gorgeous and poignant graphic novel, and you’ll want to read it over (and over, and over) again.

Further reading: In many Asian languages, ‘LGBTQ’ doesn’t translate. Here’s how some fill the gaps.