Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung (Review)

bigWOWO rating: Literary Fiction Gold

Put this title on a list of surprisingly good books that I probably would not have picked up from just the summary. The story is told from the first-person perspective of a grad student whose sister disappears. When something bad happens to the narrator’s parents and they find themselves returning to Korea, the grad student must confront her family’s history over time and space. What follows is author Chung’s beautiful, lyrical description of a family in chaos that seeks to regain its footing.

It’s really quite wonderful how Chung weaves her story together, bringing Korean history and  folklore together and turning it into a cohesive description–without losing the story. More fascinating and praiseworthy (especially for WOWO readers) is that Chung confronts racism head-on; there is no beating around the bush on either Asian American history or American racism. Chung also confronts the big elephant in the room that often influences modern Korean culture–Christianity. In the space of 293 pages, she covers most significant political and cultural issues in Korean American culture. (She doesn’t cover the one issue that WOWO readers like to obsess about, but if you’re a long-time reader of the comment section of this blog, you’re probably just as tired of it as I am.)

I highly recommend this book. There were some plot devices that I felt were predictable, but wow, what a great first novel. It’s exciting also because Chung is a young writer and probably has many more books to come.

3 thoughts on “Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung (Review)

  1. Haven’t read a book for ages, I’ll probably get this one from your recommendation (and I’m seeing a Korean girl now, so I may get her opinion on whether the book is plausible or not, but she’s not much of a reader of books).

    I’ve looked at a few reviews since and this one caught my attention:

    http://www.minnesotareads.com/2012/04/forgotten-country/
    I thought it was interesting to see this reviewer (who seems to be a white woman) seemingly to like the character of Hannah, which from the other reviews, seem to be a typical character from Joy Luck Club, than the protagonist.

    And a few reviewers complained about the PHD advisor character, what ethnic is he?

  2. The PhD advisor is white. His character too is somewhat…err…well, let me know what you think after you read it.

    Hannah’s character wasn’t JLC-ish; at least I didn’t think so. I mean yes, it kinda crosses into that territory, but…

    Let’s just say I’m looking forward to discussing this book with you, N! I’d be interested in what your girlfriend says too. The folklore adds some good color to the story.

  3. Pingback: Revision as Therapy | Where Are You From?

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