Brave, unconventional, and determined, Ruth Asawa let nothing stop her from living a life intertwined with art
Renowned for her innovative wire sculptures, Japanese American artist Ruth Asawa (1926–2013) was a teenager in Southern California when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States entered World War II. Japanese Americans on the West Coast were forced into camps. Asawa’s family had to abandon their farm, her father was incarcerated, and she and the rest of her family were sent to a detention center in California, and later to a concentration camp in Arkansas. Asawa nurtured her dreams of becoming an artist while imprisoned and eventually made her way to the experimental Black Mountain College in North Carolina.
This graphic biography by Sam Nakahira, developed in consultation with Asawa’s younger daughter, Addie Lanier, chronicles the genesis of Asawa as an artist—from the horror of Pearl Harbor to her transformative education at Black Mountain College to building her life in San Francisco, where she would further develop and refine her groundbreaking sculpture.
Asawa never sought fame, preferring to work on her own terms: for her, art and life were one. Using lively illustrations and a dozen photographs of Asawa’s artwork, this graphic retelling of her young adult years demonstrates the transformative power of making art.
“A tender and thoughtful rendering of an important artist’s life. Sam Nakahira uses the power and beauty of comics to its fullest to immerse you in the mind and genius of Ruth Asawa. As soon as I finished it, I wanted to read it again!”—Tillie Walden, Eisner Award-winning cartoonist and illustrator
“A lovingly crafted story about the early, formative years of a great sculptor—covering both the hardships and the joys that helped shape Ruth Asawa into the artist we remember her as today.” —Melanie Gillman, author of As the Crow Flies
“Ruth Asawa: An Artist Takes Shape is a richly detailed recounting of the artist’s life. It’s so full of clearly conveyed scenes and stories that even those who are familiar with Asawa are sure to learn more. Obviously a labor of love, the book is true to the spirit of the woman who inspired it.” —Andrea D’Aquino, author of A Life Made by Hand: The Story of Ruth Asawa