The Astonishing Color of After Tackles Questions of Identity and Loss

Stefany Valentine Ramirez
This book felt like it was written for me. The feelings of incompletion and longing are things that I as a bi-racial American feel regularly.

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Published on March 19, 2019

Genres: Mental Health, Grief

CW: Suicide, mental illness

THE ASTONISHING COLOR OF AFTER is a vivid and lyrical masterpiece that addresses culture, suicide, and mental illness. It follows the story of Leigh Chen Sanders, a half Taiwanese teen, as she ventures to Taiwan following her mother’s suicide. There, Leigh sees a strange red bird at the site of her mother’s favorite places and begins to believe it’s her mother’s reincarnation. Through a series of flashbacks, Leigh learns more about the side of her family she knew nothing about and eventually fills the void in her heart that her mother left behind.

I have never felt more connected to a fictional character than I did with Leigh. Like me, Leigh is half White (from her dad) and half Taiwanese (from her mom). And like Leigh, I have lost my connection with my Asian half. Of all the themes in this story, the concept of loss really resonated with me. Not only did Leigh lose her mom to suicide, but she lost sense of who she was.

Speaking from experience -- when one half of your racial identity disappears, it literally feels like one half of your body has been chopped off and no matter what, you will never be whole again. There is a constant feeling of incompletion that I face every day. As Leigh learns more about her ancestry, that void in her heart is filled. Though the emptiness never truly goes away, it does get supplemented to a tolerable level.  

This book felt like it was written for me. The feelings of incompletion and longing are things that I as a bi-racial American feel regularly. While I may not be able to return to Taiwan and learn about my mother, I am grateful that I was able to experience Leigh’s story and grow along with her.

Stefany Valentine Ramirez is a Taiwanese-Texan from San Antonio. She graduated from Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi where she studied creative writing and technical/professional writing. Since then, she has worked as a social media marketer to promote books written by Zoraida Cordova, Farah Naz Rishi, Nina Varela and others. When not reading a book, Stefany can be found taking pictures for her bookstagram, camping in the wilderness, or working on her debut novel. You can follow her on Instagram or Twitter.

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