A Korean American teen from Northern California took it upon himself to translate the entirety of South Korean prisoner-of-war memoir, Yonhap News reports.
The book, which is called Starry Nights in Hell but was published in the United States as Tears of Blood, was originally penned by Yoo Young-bok, who spent 50 years imprisoned in a North Korean camp. Yoo, 70, was only one of 60,000 POWs held in North Korea long after the 1953 armistice.
Yoo’s story moved 15-year-old Paul Kim of Mountain View, Calif., so much that he decided it needed to be translated and shared with a wider audience. Kim found time between attending classes and soccer practices to work on the text with the help of family and friends. Continue Reading »
At just 27, Steph Cha releases her first novel, an edgy mystery that repurposes a traditionally misogynistic genre.
story and photograph by CHELSEA HAWKINS
Juniper Song refuses to be anyone’s smoky-eyed dream girl—and thank goodness for that.
The protagonist of first-time author Steph Cha’s novel, Follow Her Home, is breaking every trope of the noir genre. The plot follows Song, a 20-something Korean American wannabe-detective, as she sleuths around Los Angeles, after her friend Luke suspects his father is having an affair. But when Song finds a dead body stuffed into her car trunk, she realizes she’s quickly spiraling into a seedy urban underbelly.
“I wanted [the story] to be one where it wasn’t just an Asian sidekick. I have a white male sidekick,” Cha says matterof-factly, as we sit in a dimly lit Koreatown café. It seems fitting to be discussing noir in the middle of L.A.—with the backdrop of city bustle and warm sunshine, as we’re cloistered inside, sipping coffee in a dark corner, the sounds of jazz horns playing.
Cha was largely inspired by the canonical works of hardboiled detective fiction, particularly those of Raymond Chandler, creator of the fictional private eye Philip Marlowe, and author of books like The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye. It’s no surprise then to find Song herself is an ardent Chandler fan, referencing the iconic writer throughout the novel. Continue Reading »
Yellow Power Redux
Don Lee’s highly praised fourth book, The Collective, about three Asian American artists, is his most personal yet.
by VIVIEN KIM THORP
Transnational adoption, interracial dating, the ephemeral nature of friendship and the pitfalls of pursuing a life in the arts—these are just a few of the topics that author Don Lee covers in his latest book, The Collective.
A tale of three Asian American would-be artists, the novel is a classic bildungsroman, set in Minnesota and later Massachusetts. Since its publication last July, The Collective’s accolades have included a glowing review in The Boston Globe (a “hilarious and winning story”) and a nod from the New Yorker (a “smart” and “subdued third novel”). And an NPR correspondent named it part of the new “collegiate canon,” alongside Jeffrey Eugenides’ recent bestseller, The Marriage Plot.
The novel begins when Joshua Yoon, a 38-year-old writer, commits suicide by throwing himself into the path of a car. It’s September of 2008, and one of his only friends, fellow writer Eric Chang, is left to distribute his estate. As Eric deals with Joshua’s meager belongings, he begins to reminisce, tracing their friendship back 20 years, to their freshman year of college in 1988.
Published by W. W. Norton, The Collective is Lee’s fourth book. His first, Yellow, a collection of short stories, was published in 2001. Two novels, Country of Origin and Wrack and Ruin, followed. Of the four, The Collective is the most personal work. Lee insists it’s not autobiographical, although his characters’ lives do often parallel that of the real-life Don Lee. Told in the first person, the novel is set both at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., where Lee taught writing from 2007 to 2008, and in Boston and Cambridge, Mass., where he lived for 23 years. Like Lee, Eric has a sister four years his senior and spends years as the editor of a literary journal. And like Lee, the narrator’s mother dies when he is only 30 years old, an event Lee says, that forever changed his life. Continue Reading »
by Anna Challet of New America Media
EDITOR’S NOTE: New America Media editor Andrew Lam has made his name as a journalist, but in his newest book, his past as a Vietnamese refugee reverberates through short stories about characters who fled Vietnam and made new lives in the Bay Area. Of his new work, writer Robert Olen Butler noted: “His stories are elegant and humane and funny and sad. Lam has instantly established himself as one of our finest fiction writers.” NAM reporter Anna Challet spoke with him about the collection, Birds of Paradise Lost (Red Hen Press, 2013), published this month.
Anna Challet: Birds of Paradise Lost is your first book of fiction – how did you come to publish a fiction collection after so many years of working as a journalist?
Andrew Lam: I’ve been writing short stories for twenty years now, on and off ever since I was in the creative writing program at San Francisco State University. Though I later found a career as a journalist and an essayist, fiction is my first love and I never left it, even though there was no easy way to make a living from it. The collection is a labor of love and devotion, and whenever I found free time from my journalism work, I’d work on one story or another, or at least sketch out my characters, and research various issues related to my characters’ dilemmas. After twenty years and thirty stories, thirteen pieces were finally selected and the collection was born. So far, the blurbs from [authors] Maxine Hong Kingston, Gish Jen, Robert Olen Butler, Oscar Hijuelos and others, have been most encouraging. Continue Reading »
The Girl Saves the Day
Move over, Disney princesses. Debut author Ellen Oh introduces a new type of protagonist: a young female warrior in ancient Korea.
by JULIE HA
Author Ellen Oh admits she wrote Prophecy, her debut fantasy adventure novel, for her three daughters. In fact, the idea to feature a strong, young female demon slayer was inspired by a sense of frustration over the types of stories available—and unavailable—to her children.
“I’m a feminist … and I find it very hard [to accept this idea of,] ‘Oh, the girl must be saved by the boy.’ I guess we were watching too many Disney movies at the time, and it was making me so angry,” said Oh, 45, who lives with her husband and daughters in the Washington, D.C., area. “Where are all the girl adventure stories?”
Instead of waiting for Disney to make one (and, incidentally, they finally did, with Brave released last year), the entertainment-attorney-turned-writer began crafting her own four years ago.
“One girl will save us all,” reads the teaser on the cover of Oh’s young adult novel, released last month by HarperTeen, an imprint of Harper Collins. Continue Reading »