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Books
Native Speaker
by Chang-Rae Lee

I can understand some of the ambivalence which surrounds the reception to this book; more often than not, people love it, but some really dislike enough of it to give it low ratings. While the author has very studied and elaborate style, which is actually beautiful at times, maybe people come to expect too much from the plot and the development of "Parky." The very graceful, "riddling" prose may make the development of the story seem unsatisfactory at times. At any rate, people seem intrigued or perplexed enough to have formed strong opinions about it.

As for the story, I think it would have been too crass for it to have ended in any other way, given the length of the book and what a brooding and quietly melancholic character Henry is. I haven't read Lee's successive work, but I would probably need a break to take in some sunshine and laugh a bit before I delved into his world again.

Mr. Lee's necessary explanation of why Henry became the man he is seems utterly convincing, drawing at length from his childhood and the contrasting influences of his family and his adopted country. Given this, it's probably difficult for people to accept the book as being anything other than a Korean-American experience novel - but though for me it somehow isn't; Henry's "sentimentalist," yet "emotional alien" character defies common logic (and yes I am Korean, though not Korean-American), and makes the reading of the man's thoughts via the narrative as intensely interesting as his manner is surreptitious and secretive. Someone elsewhere wrote that Lee's novels seem to be "more personal therapy than art," and it seems unlikely to me that Lee could borrow so deeply and richly from any other personality than his own.

I'll certainly be looking foward to his future works (after a bit of a break, as I said), but his very unique and accomplished style makes it unfair for him to be bracketed as just another Korean -American writer; he should be allowed to stand on his own merits, and be appreciated as a storyteller of an different order, and not as a voice for Korean-Amercans. I imagine the scope of any ethnicity's experiences are too broad to be squeezed into the narrative voice of one author, so let's just appreciate his work for what it is, and not be disappointed that it isn't "definitive".

East to America : Korean American Life Stories
by Elaine H. Kim, Eui-Young Yu, Anna Deavere Smith

I did enjoy this book because of the plentitude of stories contained within it. The purpose of the authors creating this book was to abolish the Korean and Korean American stereotype by providing a forum where Koreans could tell their stories and vocalize their opinions. I think that the authors were successful in their intent. Even though I am Korean, I often fall prey to believing the stereotypes of Koreans, and of races in general; it is human nature. This book has made me want to try to think again; Koreans, and people of all races, are a hodgepodge of different stories and therefore have different personalities, interests, and attitudes. I started to read this book in an attempt to learn more about what others thought of the Asian American experience but I was often left with a desire to know more about the people. Maybe the author's next task should be to focus on one or two stories. We've heard their stories, what about their thoughts and emotions?
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