In An Na’s “The Fold”, Joyce Park, a sweet, self-conscious Korean seventeen year-old is a girl that many teenage girls will be able to identify with—from dealing with that big annoying zit that comes at the worst time, to confronting your long-time crush or just having to deal with the insecurities of being a teenager.
In Na’s novel, she addresses the issue of self-image in girls today and the many insecurities that go along with it. This issue is played out when Joyce’s aunt Gomo wins the lottery and gives Joyce the gift to get plastic surgery to put a fold on her eyelids (a physical trait that many western world women take for granted), Joyce has to decide whether she wants to endure all the pain to look “beautiful” and get the guy or to accept herself for who she is.
Na portrays how Gomo tries to change Joyce’s family by giving each member of the family a gift to improve their looks. The gifts that Gomo gave ranged from pills to make one taller to finding a pre-arranged boyfriend. Gomo, who they sometimes call Michael (short for Michael Jackson) is obsessed with plastic surgery, having had it many times, and so when she wins all this money and tries to get her family to alter themselves to look a different way, she is letting her own insecurities rub off on them, and she makes the family insecure about themselves. This message that one needs to look a certain way is unfortunately very prevalent in our society today even from plucking our eyebrows to wearing makeup. However, An Na makes Joyce a loveable and relatable character, and Na is able to show how Joyce is eventually able to accept herself and love herself for who she is by seeing the flaws of her loved ones.
Before having read this book I did not realize that there are different types of insecurities amongst different ethnicities. For Joyce and other Asian Americans in the book they were self-conscious and unhappy with their eyelids and lack of a fold and they wanted their eyelids to have a fold to look more “American.” It is sad that we live in a world where we cannot just be considered beautiful for the way we are. We have now succumbed to an environment where we feel the need to get plastic surgery, liposuction, breast implants and anything just to achieve this false image of an “ideal” way a woman should look. An Na does a wonderful job in this novel of showing what is really important in life and how you should be confident in yourself no matter who you are. She addresses the idea of beauty, and how it affects everyone in a funny, sincere and thoughtful way. This book is very thought provoking, and a great discussion piece that forces one to look at our own culture and examine our practices of what we consider beauty. This book can appeal to parents and young readers.
“The Fold” by An Na. The Penguin Group, 2008.