News & Media

Free Food for Millionaires, Min Jin Lee (fiction, Grand Central Publishing) “Casey Han is the Queens-bred daughter of Korean immigrants, back in the city after graduating from Princeton and realizing …

“This is a captivating book I read at the suggestion of a young staffer on my team –– a historical novel about the Korean immigrant experience in wartime Japan. Min Jin Lee draws you in from the first line, ‘History has failed us, but no matter.’ The book is named after a popular game in Japan that’s a bit like a pinball machine –– a game of chance where the player can set the speed or direction, but once it’s in play a maze of obstacles determines the outcome. Staying true to the nature of the game, Min Jin Lee’s novel takes us through four generations and each character’s search for identity and success. It’s a powerful story about resilience and compassion.” - Barack Obama

In the stories of Min Jin Lee, Kaitlyn Greenidge, and Lauren Groff, research is a recurring theme.
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“Sometimes my therapist, bless her, mentions phobias I don’t have. ‘You’re not an agoraphobe,’ she offered on Wednesday. But nevertheless, I am skeptical of crowded opinions. Books loved by enormous groups of people unnerve me. I skirted WOLF HALL for ages, and the number of people who told me PACKINKO is a good book is equal to the number of times I responded, ‘Oh, I have to read that,’ and then didn’t. I shouldn’t have hesitated. Min Jin Lee began her career as a lawyer, and her interest in research and justice shines through this compelling family narrative. It is sweeping but specific. When my reading lamp putters out­—the only way I can close the book at night—words and images last: Sunja’s simplest chima, or the way her mother cuts radishes in perfect cubes. Huge cultural questions also sweep past, not unanswered but unanswerable: How do communities thrive on each other’s exclusion? How can a people flourish when their equity is rejected? This book is so much about the collective, its fragility and its dangers, paper-thin walls and the thickness of blood.” —Julia Berick

“In their attractive, polished faces, I saw that Stonehenge was as familiar to them as having a gun held to my face was to me.”

“I am 50 years old, and after more than four decades of living in the West, I realize that like writing, talking is painful because we expose our ideas for evaluation; however, like writing, talking is powerful because our ideas may, in fact, have value and require expression.

As a girl, I did not know this power, yet this is my power now.”

Burdock had the honor of interviewing Korean American writer Min Jin Lee while she was working on her third book, AMERICAN HAGWON.

Words by Noël Duan
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“Min Jin Lee discussed her process and interests, and reflected on the hardships of being a professional artist, especially as a woman of color. She also described the impact of receiving a NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship: ‘I needed to have this kind of support that somehow what I did mattered. And that was so important to have NYFA recognize that my little question was worth supporting, and I think that when the average person in this country thinks that art matters, that’s a huge step. Because it is so often seen as less important than food, and housing, and jobs, and healthcare, and all those things are really important for me, too. But I chose this path because I think that literature can create the level of empathy that many things cannot. I believe that, I believe that with everything that I do.'”