Technically, Min Jin Lee has only written a handful of books – three to be specific, along with several professional reviews of popular journal articles and books. ‘Free Food For Millionaires‘ and ‘Pachinko’ are some of the major books that have brought her some recognition. Lee is currently writing her fourth which seems to be the final piece of her Korean diaspora trilogy. Let’s take a look at her best.
‘Pachinko’, comes comfortably as Min Jin Lee’s most populous book to date. Although published in 2017, the book explored new grounds by being the first-ever novel written in the English language covering the history of Korean-Japanese culture through the colonial rule of World War II.
Min Jin Lee’s ‘Pachinko’ follows the epic tale of the struggle for survival of a poor Korean family down to their fourth generation who find themselves in Japan, a foreign country, which at the time was clearly discriminatory and unfair towards outsiders.
‘Pachinko’ is a complex book with many different characters cutting across the four generations, but Min Jin Lee deploys Sunja as her central character who connects the eras while serving as the matriarchal figure for the poor Korean family or the Baek.
Sunja becomes the only surviving child of Hoonie, a poor fish seller and lodger – who has morbid disabilities disfiguring his face and foot, and his wife Yangjin, with their first three children passing away from illness shortly after their births.
She thrives, grows into a fine young lady without inheriting any of her father’s disabilities, but life takes a toll on her starting with her father’s death when she was 13, and then four years later she mistakenly becomes pregnant for a man who refuses to marry her thus bringing shame and disgrace to her family.
Despite the many lows, Sunja soon proves herself the matriarchal figure as she surmounts the challenges that life throws at her, through perseverance and hard work, and fights to survive in a foreign, adverse country; bringing up her children and grandchildren with her family code of love, bond and survival spirit.
Min Jin Lee’s ‘Pachinko’ was the readers’ choice, becoming 2017’s favorite book for several literati like Roxane Gay and Barack Obama. The book received scores of good reviews from some of the best publishers and media companies around – including The New York Times, The Guardian, Kirkus Reviews, and The Washington Post among others.
Free Food For Millionaires
‘Free Food For Millionaires’ was Min Jin Lee’s first-ever novel published in 2007, although Lee had been doing several other writing engagements in essays, short stories, and reviews prior to her first novel.
It follows the story of the smart and temperamental Casey Han, the daughter of a New York-based Korean immigrant. Aside from being bright and intelligent, Casey does go occasionally off and a bit crazy – with Min Jin Lee implying a general sense of loss and misguidedness for her main character.
Still, between Casey’s dream of living the American dream- which includes keeping a boyfriend that her family vehemently rejects, and living by the standards considered acceptable by her family and the broader Korean American community, Casey struggles with figuring out what the future holds for her after graduation.
Following its publication in 2007, ‘Free Food For Millionaires’ saw instant fame coming out as the number one Book Sense pick and enlisted among The Times of London’s top 10 books for 2007. The book was also recognized by USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the New York Times – among others.
Which book is Min Jin Lee’s most populous book?
‘Pachinko’ is considered Min Jin Lee’s most populous novel based on the high level of success it had, which saw it become a runner-up for the National Book Awards for fiction.
What is Min Jin Lee’s idea for titling her first book ‘Free Food For Millionaires’?
Min Jin Lee opted to name her maiden novel the title ‘Free Food For Millionaires’ because, beyond mere material wealth, she saw the different talents in her characters as richness in themselves, with the grace (which Lee calls free food) that comes freely to everyone becoming the ultimate catalyst for the characters to harness their talents to its full potential.
Why is Min Jin Lee obsessed with writing about Korean diasporas?
Min Jin Lee has had a wealth of experience in immigrant life – all thanks to her moving from Korea to the United States, however, her interest in writing about the Korean diaspora grew because she thought it carried untapped stories waiting to be told.