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A Divided Cultural Identity

posted by:
June 29, 2012 - 7:01am

Drifting HouseKrys Lee's fiction debut, Drifting House, is a unique collection of gritty short stories that examines the lives of Koreans and Korean Americans, from post WWII to present day. In “The Salaryman,” a man is fired from a bankrupted company and decides to join the other countless men who have turned to homeless life on the streets to avoid bringing shame upon their families.  In preparation for a meeting with his estranged wife, he attempts to disguise his new life by shining his briefcase and spraying himself with a department store’s sample of Ralph Lauren Polo cologne. 

 

The term “goose father” originated during the Vietnam War to describe the Korean soldiers fighting for the U.S. army who sent money back to their families. In a story of the same name, Gilho Pak, a successful accountant, leads a solitary and hardworking existence in Korea to support the education of his wife and children who are studying overseas in America.  His ideas of life, happiness, and sexuality are all disrupted when he decides to take a tenant, the youthful and intuitive Wuseong who arrives with an injured pet goose tucked under his arm.

 

Notions of home, family and collective national identity are challenged as the reader follows the mother who fakes an American marriage in search of her kidnapped daughter, and journeys with the young siblings trekking to China to escape North Korea’s famine. Readers who enjoyed Chang-rae Lee’s Native Speaker or Haruki Murakami’s After the Quake will appreciate Lee’s ability to depict her many distressed characters with grace and anomalous humor.  Although the characters in these nine evocative tales vary greatly in age, social rank, and motive, each will stay with you long after you’ve put down the book.

Sarah Jane

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