Tuesday Books No. 7: The Magical Language of Others By E.J. Koh

Aloha! Time for Tuesday books! E.J. Koh’s The Magical Language of Others! Koh’s memoir will resonate for those caught between time and place, who seek an understanding between generations, and who look to words for answers. This book exposes the realities of economic global work, Confucian expectations translated into modern lives, and the brutality of people living out their ambitions. It paints a poignant and raw picture of how we try to manifest a certain life. I believe that had I read this at a different time in my life I would have come to different conclusions, but I think that is what makes this a good book—this is one you will reread.

On a personal note, the book made me think about the life of my Korean cousin from Seoul. He’s back in Korea and spent years in the US as a parachute kid. My uncle was a cultural envoy and was called back. He took his youngest son and left his older one to live on his own at the age of 13 in New York. The belief in education and the excruciating conformity and misery that the Korean education system imposes on its young results in serious family disruption. Yet too, the chase for status, for acceptance, for money, a very real attempt to carve out a place and declare one’s existence in this life, is all too human.

This is a book for all, but what I think is important is that this book can cross various populations and age groups, and I would place it both on a university and secondary level reading list. I don’t say that about many books. We watch two women come of age or to an understanding—the narrator and her mother. There’s a raw pathos here—what is it we want family to be? How do we love and speak to each other? What does it mean to let go? How do we live in memory? Beautiful, sorrowful and meaningful questions we all must answer.

So excited to have EJ Koh visit Women’s Creative Writing Workshop on 10/3! Her growing body of work speaks to the global questions raised by those in the Korean diaspora, and I believe that her serious endeavors to bridge the literary questions raised by those in Korea, as well as those in the United States, mark her as one who will lead Korean American writing forward in the 21st century. Global. Woman. Poet. Writer. Translator. Editor. Read her now.

Write your story. Register at drstephaniehan.com
~teaching women the power of narrative~

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