Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Pg. 69: Katherine Min's "Secondhand World"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: Katherine Min's Secondhand World.

About the book, from the publisher:
Isadora Myung Hee Sohn — Isa — worships her mother, an exceptional beauty, born in Seoul and sheltered in a harem of sisters inside the wealthy family’s compound. Isa’s father, a scientist and professor, an orphan, is haunted by the war in which he served as a South Korean soldier and by a painful secret that he keeps from his wife. Still mourning the death of Isa’s younger brother, Stephen, her parents are traditional enough to prize their dead son over their living daughter; to them, Isa only half exists.

But unlike many Asian American daughters, Isa is neither meek nor a quiet victim of tradition. Despite her parents’ success and sophistication — they’ve achieved the American dream — she repudiates their values, embarks on her own sexual education, and runs away with an albino boy, Hero. At the same time, Isa suspects that despite her mother’s strict adherence to Korean traditional values, she is involved with another man, and Isa determines to make the affair known. What begins as a child’s unthinking fury at her mother soon leads to more deadly consequences.
Among the praise for Secondhand World:
“This disquieting début novel begins like a murder mystery: in a hospital burn unit, a badly scarred eighteen-year-old flatly informs us of her parents’ death by fire. The story that follows, however, is less an investigation than an exorcism…. The writing is exquisite and exacting.”
The New Yorker

“Min’s strengths lie in her lush writing and full development of the vibrant, complex characters… By the end of the book, readers feel as though the characters are personal friends, and are fully invested in the satisfying conclusion.”
—Sara Astruc,

“In Secondhand World Katherine Min depicts with wonderful eloquence the coming of age of an unusually spirited heroine — Isadora Myung Hee Sohn — as she struggles to negotiate between her family’s Korean past and their American present. A fiercely compelling and immensely intelligent debut.”
—Margot Livesey, author of Banishing Verona

“What makes this novel so memorable — and hard to put down — is the realness and urgency of its emotion. It’s a force that commands the reader from one aching and beautifully concise chapter to the next. Secondhand World is both powerful and intimate and offers us a piercing, new view of immigrant isolation."
—John Dalton, author of Heaven Lake

“[A] haunting debut.... Swirling, textured, beautifully detailed ... Min’s rendering of an outsider family’s tight-knit alienation is spot-on.”
Publishers Weekly
Katherine Min’s short stories have appeared in numerous publications, including TriQuarterly, Ploughshares, The Threepenny Review, and Prairie Schooner, and have been widely anthologized, most recently in The Pushcart Book of Stories: The Best Short Stories from a Quarter-Century of The Pushcart Prize. Secondhand World is her first novel.

Visit Katherine Min's website, and read an excerpt from Secondhand World.

The Page 69 Test: Katherine Min's Secondhand World.

--Marshal Zeringue