Saturday, July 21, 2007

Pg. 99: Min Jin Lee's "Free Food for Millionaires"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Min Jin Lee's Free Food for Millionaires.

About the book, from the publisher:
Casey Han's four years at Princeton gave her many things, 'But no job and a number of bad habits.' Casey's parents, who live in Queens, are Korean immigrants working in a dry cleaner, desperately trying to hold on to their culture and their identity. Their daughter, on the other hand, has entered into rarified American society via scholarships. But after graduation, Casey sees the reality of having expensive habits without the means to sustain them.

As she navigates Manhattan, we see her life and the lives around her, culminating in a portrait of New York City and its world of haves and have-nots. Free Food for Millionaires offers up a fresh exploration of the complex layers we inhabit both in society and within ourselves. Inspired by 19th century novels such as Vanity Fair and Middlemarch, Min Jin Lee examines maintaining one's identity within changing communities in what is her remarkably assured debut.

Among the praise for Free Food for Millionaires:

"It would be remarkable if she had simply written a long novel that was as easy to devour as a 19th-century romance — packed with tales of flouted parental expectations, fluctuating female friendships and rivalries, ephemeral (and longer-lasting) romantic hopes and losses, and high-stakes career gambles. But Lee intensifies her drama by setting it against an unfamiliar backdrop: the tightly knit social world of Korean immigrants, whose children strive to blend into their American foreground without clashing with their distinctive background. It’s a feat of coordination and contrast that could kill a chameleon, but Lee pulls it off with conviction.” [read more]
– Liesl Schillinger, New York Times Book Review

“Min Jin Lee’s keen eye for class concerns and her confident, muscular writing about the conflicting pulls toward one’s cultural heritage and the unknowable, wide-open future make Free Food for Millionaires a pleasure.”
– Meg Wolitzer, The Position and Surrender, Dorothy

Free Food for Millionaires is different from any book I’ve ever read—a big, juicy, commercial Korean American coming-of-age novel, one that could spawn a satisfying miniseries, and one that definitely belongs in this summer’s beach bag.”
– Tina Jordan, Entertainment Weekly

"Not since Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake has an author so exquisitely evoked what it’s like to be an immigrant.... As much as this is an immigrant story, it’s also an American story full of class struggle, rugged individualism, social status and above all, the money haves and have-nots. Most of all it’s an epic mediation on love, both familial and romantic. Lee offers us love in all its tenacious and painful glory.”
– Carol Memmott, USA Today

Min Jin Lee has received the NYFA Fellowship for Fiction, the Peden Prize from The Missouri Review for Best Story, and the Narrative Prize for New and Emerging Writer. Her work has also been featured on NPR’s Selected Shorts and anthologized in To Be Real (Doubleday, 1995) and Breeder (Seal Press, 2001).

Read an excerpt from Free Food for Millionaires and more about Min Jin Lee and her work at her website.

The Page 99 Test: Free Food for Millionaires.

--Marshal Zeringue