Banned Book Club: The Color of Earth

Title: The Color of Earth (First book in the The Story of Life on the Golden Fields trilogy)

Published: 2003 (in Korea), 2009 (English translation)

Author: Kim Dong Hwa

Challenge status: In 2011, #2 most challenged book as tracked by ALA/OIF. Book #41 on Summer of Banned Books ’13.

Why: Some of the reasons given for challenges were: nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group.

First line: ”Them beetles are matin’.”


Ehwa lives with her mother in a small rural village. Every Spring, Ehwa learns a little more about life, and love – the book starts with her at age eight and follows her through puberty via a series of vignettes. If you can imagine Judy Blume’s “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” set in rural Korea, as a prettily illustrated graphic novel, with a little more lyricism and a little less suburbia, you’ll have a sense of it.

Note: Speaking of frequently challenged books and their authors: Judy Blume has five books on The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990 to 1999 list: Forever (7), Blubber (30), Deenie (42), Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret (60), and Tiger Eyes (89).

Ehwa’s gradual blossoming into womanhood (spring blooms are a recurrent theme in the book) has an interesting parallel (or counterpoint, I guess) in her mother. A widowed innkeeper, Ehwa’s mother finds herself open to the attention of an itinerant painter, who occasionally wanders by, leaving paintbrushes behind – to remember him by, or give him an excuse to return. At the same time Ehwa is starting to pay attention to the local boys – including two not-very-available young men – a young monk she’s traded flowers with occasionally, and a young upper-class intellectual who’s studying in a different province but comes home every once in a while. Along the way she – in equal parts – learns from, and is misinformed by, her friends.

Where would a woman hide a persimmon seed? – Kim Dong Hwa, The Color of Earth


Her close relationship with her mother is important to both of them, and one of the best themes running through the book – the clear love, affection, and companionship shared by mother and daughter.

What do you think?

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