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An interview with PW Radio as PACHINKO hits No. 22 on the Publishers Weekly Hardcover Fiction Bestseller List.
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Min Jin Lee immigrated to Queens with her mother, father, and two sisters when she was seven years old. The backdrop of her bestselling debut novel, Free Food for Millionaires, a coming-of-age story of an immigrant college graduate, was set in her childhood neighborhood of Elmhurst. Now, after ten years, Lee’s second novel, Pachinko, follows a Korean-Japanese family across four generations. Lee learned about the history of the Korean-Japanese community in 1989, when she was a junior in college, and has worked on this novel ever since. Pachinko is the story of Sunja, a young woman who loves her family and struggles to survive in the face of historical upheavals and injustice. Lee says that to work on books for such a long time requires love. So, in the month of hearts and cupids, Lee shares the books that, for her, define love: Ain’t I a Woman by bell hooks
“History has failed us, but no matter,” begins Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko.
February 7, 20177:00 AM ET
PACHINKO, by Min Jin Lee. This historical novel, by the author of “Free Food for Millionaires,” follows several generations of a Korean family in Japan during the 20th century, where they face poverty and intense discrimination but make a fortune running pachinko parlors, a pinball-like game. Lee has worked her own Asian variation on the immigrant saga. (Grand Central, $27)
Min Jin Lee’s 2007 national bestselling novel Free Food for Millionaires was set in the world of Korean immigrants and their children striving for success in New York. Addictively readable, it headed up “top ten novels of the year” lists everywhere from The Times of London to NPR and USA Today. Readers and critics alike found it both intellectually compelling and hard to put down (I remember several nights of turning pages at 2 a.m.). Both a feminist story of one young woman’s quest to break away from her immigrant family’s demands and find personal fulfillment, and a hard-hitting social commentary on the toll exacted by the American Dream, Free Food For Millionaires reads less like a debut and more like the work of a long established master. Liesl Schillinger, writing in the New York Times Sunday Book Review, compared the book to Middlemarch by George Eliot; Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
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PACHINKO Is A Family Saga of Exile, Discrimination…And Japanese Pinball
Literary Critic Bill Goldstein selects PACHINKO for Bill’s Books on NBC New York’s Weekend Today in New York
The Pachinko Interview segment follows the interviews Editor Pamela Paul has with Daphne Merkin and a report with Alexandra Alter.
Home but Not Home: Four Generations of an Ethnic Korean Family in Japan
By Angela Ledgerwood, host of Lit Up, a podcast about books, writers, and all things literary
Pachinko makes the Chicago Review of Books Top Ten Books of February 2017
Pachinko is the February Selection of the historic Book of the Month Club founded in 1926 . Serving as judge, author of Queen of the Night and Edinburgh, Alexander Chee writes:
The Greenlight Bookstore First Editions Club offers great new literature each month, for building a library or keeping up with what’s new.
Pachinko makes the Kirkus Reviews 12 Excellent Reads List for February 2017
A Conversation with Adam Sockel of ProBookNerds, sponsored by OverDrive Libraries. Adam Sockel and Min Jin Lee discuss the writing of PACHINKO at the American Library Association Midwinter 2017.
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Pachinko is the February TNB Book Club Selection, hand-picked by executive editor Jonathan Evison and TNB founder Brad Listi.
“History has failed us, but no matter.” So begins Korean-American author Min Jin Lee’s gripping new novel about a chapter largely ignored in English literature: the Koreans in Japan.
Min Jin Lee’s novel Pachinko is the portrait of one Korean family through multiple generations, from the early 1900s where prized daughter Sunja’s unexpected pregnancy threatens to bring shame to her poor family until a minister offers to marry her and start a new life together in Japan. Sunja’s descendants live in exile from their true homeland, and face (and rise above) all kinds of challenges, from poverty to discrimination, while establishing their identity and family in a new country.
Min Jin Lee’s sophomore novel opens during Imperial Japan’s occupation of Korea, and follows a family through five generations of self-discovery. The breadth and depth of challenges come through clearly, without sensationalization. The sporadic victories are oases of sweetness, without being saccharine. Lee makes it impossible not to develop tender feelings towards her characters—all of them, even the most morally compromised. Their multifaceted engagements with identity, family, vocation, racism, and class are guaranteed to provide your most affecting sobfest of the year.
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A new tour de force from the bestselling author of Free Food for Millionaires, for readers of A Fine Balance and Cutting for Stone.
The follow-up to her bestselling debut Free Food for Millionaires, Lee’s new novel is a saga set in 1930s Korea and then Japan, detailing the struggles of one family’s poverty, discrimination, and shame in the wake of a daughter’s pregnancy and subsequent abandonment by her lover. Winning early praise from Junot Díaz and David Mitchell, it looks like Pachinko could be headed for the bestseller lists as well
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee: A sweeping look at four generations of a Korean family who immigrates to Japan after Japan’s 1910 annexation of Korea, from the author of Free Food for Millionaires. Junot Díaz says “Pachinko confirms Lee’s place among our finest novelists.” (Lydia)
One of my most treasured possessions is a list of all the books I’ve read for the past 30 years, written chronologically in a blank book I won in a high school essay contest. Every January, I print the new year at the top of the next blank page and think about all the books I’m looking forward to reading in the coming months.
A new tour de force from the bestselling author of Free Food for Millionaires, for readers of A Fine Balance and Cutting for Stone.
Pachinko: A Novel, by Min Jin Lee (Grand Central Publishing, 9781455563937, $27) “A father’s gentle nature, a mother’s sacrifice, a daughter’s trust, and a son’s determination are the cornerstones of this grand, multilayered saga. Pachinko follows one family through an ever-changing cultural landscape, from 1910 Korea to 1989 Japan. As the bonds of family are put to the test in the harsh realities of their world, Sunja and those she holds dear manage to carve themselves a place to call home with hard work, self sacrifice, and a little kimchi. Through it all is a message about love, faith, and the deep-rooted bonds of family. Min Jin Lee gives us a phenomenal story about one family’s struggle that resonates with us today. It will take hold of you and not let go!” —Jennifer Steele, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI
This immersive novel follows four generations of a Korean family from 1910, when Japan annexed Korea, through most of the 20th Century. An aging fisherman and his wife run a boarding house in a village near the port city of Busan. Their only surviving son, who has a cleft palate and twisted foot, is married at last. When his teenage daughter Sunja becomes pregnant by a visiting businessman, a kind pastor marries her and takes her to Osaka. After he dies, Sunja’s grit and hard work keep the family afloat during the tough war years. Her elder son makes it into Waseda University. Her younger son thrives by running pachinko parlours, where gamblers play machines in a game similar to pinball. But their future is shadowed by past secrets and betrayals.
*STARRED REVIEW A decade after her international best-selling debut, Free Food for Millionaires (2007), Min Jin Lee’s follow-up is an exquisite, haunting epic that crosses almost a century, four generations, and three countries while depicting an ethnic Korean family that cannot even claim a single shared name because, as the opening line attests: “History has failed us.”
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Another book following generations of the same family through history. In 1911 Busan, Korea, we meet Hoonie, born with a club foot and a cleft lip, and married to a 15-year-old girl. When the couple’s one daughter, Sunja, falls pregnant by a married yakuza, salvation comes to her and the family in the form of a young Christian minister, who offers to marry Sunja and take her to Japan.
A Conversation about Modern Families with authors Sonya Chung, Tanwi Nandini Islam, Alden Jones, and Min Jin Lee
Lee’s (Free Food for Millionaires) latest novel is a sprawling and immersive historical work that tells the tale of one Korean family’s search for belonging, exploring questions of history, legacy, and identity across four generations. In the Japanese-occupied Korea of the 1910s, young Sunja accidentally becomes pregnant, and a kind, tubercular pastor offers to marry her and act as the child’s father. Together, they move away from Busan and begin a new life in Japan. In Japan, Sunja and her Korean family suffer from seemingly endless discrimination, and yet they are also met with moments of great love and renewal. As Sunja’s children come of age, the novel reveals the complexities of family national history. What does it mean to live in someone else’s motherland? When is history a burden, and when does history lift a person up? This is a character-driven tale, but Lee also offers detailed histories that ground the story. Though the novel is long, the story itself is spare, at times brutally so. Sunja’s isolation and dislocation become palpable in Lee’s hands. Reckoning with one determined, wounded family’s place in history, Lee’s novel is an exquisite meditation on the generational nature of truly forging a home. (Feb.)
HT: What was the seed of this story? What was the first thing you wrote?
Pachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan.
Pachinko makes the The 10 Best New Books to Read for February 2017.
Good novels come to readers who wait.
On Saturday, October 22nd, almost 300 book lovers joined authors and publishing professionals for Hachette’s annual Book Club Brunch — now in its fifth year. Boasting a variety of authors, books and snacks, this event is highly anticipated by readers and sells out nearly every year. The Book Report Network staffers were unable to make it, but we had seven generous readers share their experiences with us, including which authors they connected to most, which books they can’t wait to read, and how the discussion of Min Jin Lee’s PACHINKO — which readers were given the opportunity to read before the event — played out in such a large group.
Set in Korea and Japan, Lee’s follow-up to her acclaimed debut, Free Food for Millionaires, is a beautifully crafted story of love, loss, determination, luck, and perseverance. Sunja is the only surviving child of humble fisherman Hoonie (himself born with a cleft palate and twisted foot) and wife Yangjin in the early 1900s. Losing her father at age 13, Sunja appears to be a dutiful daughter by working at the boardinghouse with her mother, only to surprise the family three years later by becoming pregnant by an older married man with children. She saves face when a minister at the boardinghouse, ten years older than Sunja, offers to marry her and take her to Japan with him to start a new life. What follows is a gripping multigenerational story that culminates in 1989. There are surprising twists, especially when Sunja crosses paths with her former lover while living in Japan. VERDICT Lee’s skillful development of her characters and story lines will draw readers into the work. Those who enjoy historical fiction with strong characterizations will not be disappointed as they ride along on the emotional journeys offered in the author’s latest page-turner. —Shirley Quan, Orange City. P.L., Santa Ana, CA
An absorbing saga of 20th-century Korean experience, seen through the fate of four generations.
From Suki Kim’s The Interpreter to Min Jin Lee’s own Free Food for Millionaires, stories of Koreans and first generation Korean-Americans navigating life in the States span the hysterical, poignant, and bittersweet. But few works exist that detail an entirely different Korean immigrant community: those transplanted just across the sea to Japan. After spending four years living abroad in Tokyo herself, Korean-American lawyer-turned-writer Min Jin Lee has tackled the stories of this underrepresented community in her second novel, Pachinko, forthcoming in February 2017 from Grand Central.
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