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
“I read this powerful work at about the same time I got the idea for Pachinko. I was an immigrant girl from a modest background studying at Yale, a college steeped in tradition and privilege, and bell hooks’s writings taught me to love myself as a woman of color even in such a setting. Consequently, the book also freed me to love others without judgment.”
The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis
“My grandfather was a Presbyterian minister who ran a piano-manufacturing school for orphans after the Korean War. I grew up in the church, and I think Lewis, the renowned British author of the Chronicles of Narnia, explains the ideas of faith-based love beautifully here.”
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
“Greene is a master, and this is one of the most compelling stories of romantic love—complete with inconvenience, longing, and sacrifice.”
Cousin Bette by Honoré de Balzac
“Balzac worked continuously and published prolifically, and it is clear in his tens of thousands of pages that he loved women and life. Balzac’s Bettewants loves desperately, and this vital novel is an extraordinary treatise on the intimate relationship between hate and love.”
Two Lives by William Trevor
“Last year we lost a literary colossus. “Reading Turgenev,” one of the two novellas in this book, knocked me out in its wise depiction of the lasting love found between the seemingly misbegotten of this world.”