By Nasir Aziz, ’20

While many of her fellow high school students were occupied with the daily hustle of close deadlines and extravagant prom-posals, Christine Inzer, ’19, was writing her first book, Halfway Home.

Although she was born in Japan, Inzer didn’t really remember her birthplace. It was only during the summer before her junior year in high school that she finally got a chance to embrace the diversity she carried as a Japanese-American student. After her father insisted that she travel to Japan by herself to reconnect with her grandparents and her culture, Inzer set out on an adventure of a lifetime – and documented the journey.

“When I was that age,” Inzer recalls, “I really enjoyed reading travel logs and graphic novels. There was one particular book, French Milk, by Lucy Knisley, where she went to France, recording and illustrating her travels. I was inspired by that because the two things I love most are art and traveling, and I thought this to be a wonderful medium to combine those two things.”  

As she began her journey, Inzer started keeping a journal. “I was sure to remain personal while writing it,” she says, “but I also kept it professional so I could create it into a story later.”

Recalling her favorite moments in Japan, Inzer talks about the experience of visiting Kyoto. “I had never been to that part of Japan. It’s much more historical and less urban, and going there I felt more in touch with being Japanese.” Along with exploring the different landmarks of Japan, Inzer reflects on the valuable time she spent with her grandparents as perhaps the most valuable part of her trip.

As the experience-rich journey came to an end, Inzer carried with her an armful of notebooks and an excitement to share her stories. “I came back with drawings, things written down, and I laid all of it out and began putting things together,” she explains. “I just went through my trip, and it came out as a story.”

Eventually, Inzer self-published Halfway Home, a black and white graphic novel with colorful stories. Her work was reviewed by her favorite illustrators and novelists and began to gain prominence.

Tuttle Publishing reached out to her afterwards in hopes of producing a second edition of her book, complete with large colored pages and a glossy jacket. In September 2016, Inzer became an officially published author with the release of Diary of a Tokyo Teen: A Japanese-American Girl Travels to the Land of Trendy Fashion, High-Tech Toilets and Maid Cafes.

“I’ve worked really hard on this,” Inzer says, “and it’s just made of everything that I love about Japan. It’s really just a depiction of myself.”

Perhaps it was Inzer’s adventures that brought her to an international studies major, where she hopes to concentrate in East Asia with a minor in Japanese. But for whatever reason, her book remains one of her most treasured experiences that she believes was worth every second.

“I wasn’t really sure if it would be good enough,” she remarks. “But now when I look back at it, I’m glad I did it.”