“[Ancco’s] stories liberate us to be what we are: friends, artists, monsters, mothers, human beings."— The Globe and Mail
At nineteen, the idea that you have your whole life ahead of you with endless possibilities can leave you terrifyingly stiff. Throwing mobility to the wind, you dull yourself with booze. The grown-ups around you are stunted by their own failures so they act out—with alcohol, too, sometimes with violence. What was once the hope of youth quickly spirals into powerlessness and malaise as the days trickle by. Ancco expertly renders the moment of suspension between the desire to grow up and the fear that accompanies it.
Autobiography blends with fiction in these coming-of-age stories about people reckoning with their place in their community and women coming to terms with other women. A boy living with HIV tries to decide how he’s going to tell his parents—or whether he should tell them at all. A mother puts pressure on her daughter to pass her exams, and the stress drives them both to drink, fueling a toxic relationship with a lot of care just below the ugly surface. Another girl keeps getting bruises, but who’s inflicting the damage—herself or a loved one? And dogs—seemingly the only ones capable of unconditional love—offer some reprieve.
In Nineteen, Ancco delivers a cutting panorama of contemporary Korean society that’s much darker than one might expect, while also brimming with life and the vitality of youth.
"In these rebellious, irreverent, and raw accounts, Ancco observes, remembers, shocks, and most of all, lives."
—Booklist, Starred Review
"HIV, toxic relationships, and alcoholism take center stage in Ancco’s cuttingly honest and mostly autobiographical story collection Nineteen." —Los Angeles Review of Books
"If Bad Friends is the first striking piece of art that captures your attention when you walk into the room, then Nineteen with its varying artistic styles and clamor of voices, is the wider exhibition of Annco’s work that keeps you endlessly looping around the gallery." —Bookriot, Best Books in Translation
"In 2020, Nineteen is a time capsule, a hit of nostalgia for a pre-pandemic youth."
—Asian American Writers' Workshop, Best of 2020
"Fans of smart YA drama and iconoclastic autobio will want to venture into Ancco’s broody imagination."
"Korea’s youth has had to contend with the country’s war traumas and the ongoing oppression of marginalized communities. In Nineteen, however, Ancco hints that it is only through confronting these issues—however painful—that these young adults can also contend with their own voices, in the process sketching out who they are, and what they want to say." —Hyperallergic
"I can’t get enough of Ancco’s work and I’m eagerly awaiting more." —The Toronto Star
"The art is quirky and arresting, with details and textures created through etching-like cross-hatching, in a blend of caricature and realism. The tone is dark... in keeping with the extremes of emotion at this time of life."
—Youth Services Book Review
"Ancco’s hard-edged tell-it-like-it-is narratives, sprinkled with sardonic humor, meld perfectly with her grittily detailed drawings, resulting in a work of cracked beauty." —SOLRAD