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This Burns My Heart
An epic love story set in the intriguing landscape of postwar South Korea.
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Samuel Park answers questions about This Burns My Heart

Created: 05/03/12

Replies: 10

Posted May. 03, 2012 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 386

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Samuel Park answers questions about This Burns My Heart

Samuel Park will be joining us soon to answer questions about "This Burns My Heart". So, if you have a question for him please post it below...


Posted May. 03, 2012 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
lisag

Join Date: 01/12/12

Posts: 298

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RE: Samuel Park answers questions about This Burns My Heart

1). Was any part of your novel based on experiences within your own family? Did any of your relatives contribute stories to add to your research on this era in Korean history?

2). Is there anything about the history of Korea you'd like the reader to learn after reading the story? Is there a single "take away" message you wanted to convey?

3). Have you personally spent time in Korea? If so, what impressed you most about the culture?


Posted May. 03, 2012 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
SamuelPark

Join Date: 05/03/12

Posts: 5

RE: Samuel Park answers questions about This Burns My Heart

Hi lisag, thank you for your wonderful questions! I'm going to try to answer them one by one.

1.) The book is based on an anecdote that I grew up hearing. Apparently, right before my mother was about to wed my father, she met a stranger who tried to lure her away. I found this story very intriguing, and started to imagine who that man could've been. And in terms of her helping with research, I would often call my mother late at night and ask her random things like, "Were there taxi cabs back in the '60s, and what make and model were they?" "What did young people do for fun in Daegu?" "What kind of music did you like to listen to?"

2.) Great question! I would love for the reader to see it as a country with many important ties to America. China and Japan often get the bulk of people's attention, when it comes to Asian countries, and South Korea is often ignored. I find that odd, considering the many ways the histories of South Korea and America intertwine. I feel like South Korea is like the neglected stepchild that no one pays attention to, until their crazy cousins in the North threaten to bomb the world.

3.) I have! What impressed me the most about Korean culture was the respect for the elderly. My grandmother lived with her son and daughter-in-law and held a revered place in the household. Many generations would live together under one roof, and I enjoyed how that created a tribal sense of togetherness.

I hope that answers it! Thank you for reading the book and discussing it in the book club!


Posted May. 04, 2012 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
Retired Reader, NE

Join Date: 09/16/11

Posts: 55

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Why references to the Bible?

I am curious about the references to the Bible, especially Lot's wife on page 102. Why were they included?
Also there are several references to the movies (page 77, 105, 143). What was the reason for including them?
Do you consider this book to be the story of an abused woman, a head-strong woman, or a dreamer?


Posted May. 04, 2012 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
janeh

Join Date: 06/15/11

Posts: 73

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What made you decide to make your main female character so strong and determined to be independent

What made you decide to make your main female character so strong and determined to be independent as this certainly wasn't the norm in that country in those years? What did you feel in her background made her have such a different outlook?


Posted May. 04, 2012 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
Navy Mom

Join Date: 04/12/12

Posts: 93

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Was it common for families to break up like that?

My daughter in law is Korean, she was adopted when she was 5 years old and now is very much American. Her family was large and her father could not take care of them and she ended up in an orphanage and being adopted. Was it common for families to break up like that? She was born in 1979.


Posted May. 06, 2012 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
lisag

Join Date: 01/12/12

Posts: 298

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Do any of the character names in the book have meanings?

Samuel - do any of the character names in the book have meanings, or S. Korean cultural connotations, we may not be aware of, as Western readers?


Posted May. 07, 2012 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
SamuelPark

Join Date: 05/03/12

Posts: 5

Why references to the Bible?

Dear Retired Reader,

I try to write as subconsciously as possible, which I believe is how you get to the most interesting language, and there's a big hodge-podge of influences and allusions in my head, some of which have to do with the movies, or the Bible. A reader named Jennifer recently pointed out to me, quite insightfully, I thought, the myriad of Biblical references in the novel--which I was actually unaware of. The story of Lot's wife intrigues me in particular, because I find her to be a very relatable character--I think many of us could see ourselves making the same mistake. And in terms of films, a lot of my research had to do with watching Korean cinema from the 50s and 60s. I'm also a big cinephile in general, and love movies. So it doesn't surprise me that so much of the book is satured with filmic imagery and metaphors!


Posted May. 07, 2012 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
SamuelPark

Join Date: 05/03/12

Posts: 5

What made you decide to make your main female character so strong and determined to be independent

Dear janeh,

Ah, what a great question! I think in every generation, in every society, there's the cultural norm that most people subscribe to, and then there are the visionaries who picture a different life for themselves. I think you're absolutely right that Soo-Ja pictures a life for herself that many others in her world don't, and what I've heard from readers and book club members is that her independence is due to her privileged upbringing, or her beauty, or even, ahem, her sense of entitlement! (She's a bit like a Korean Scarlett O'Hara, a journalist recently pointed out to me). I don't want to say the exact reason, as I actually prefer what readers come up with, but for me, I think a lot had to do with the way her father brought her up. I'd love to hear what you think, though.


Posted May. 07, 2012 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
SamuelPark

Join Date: 05/03/12

Posts: 5

Was it common for families to break up like that?

Dear Navy Mom,

How fascinating to hear! I'm always particularly intrigued when a reader has some kind of personal connection to the world of the book--which makes me cross my fingers that you liked the book! The '70s were an incredibly difficult time in Korea, in terms of both the economy and political repression. The year you mention, 1979, was only a year before the Kwangju massacre, and around the end of Park Chung-Hee's dictatorial regime. I think in those times, aside from the physical struggles of just making a living, there was a psychological sense of frustration and futility, a lack of hope for the future, which I suspect was the reason so many babies were given up for adoption. A lot of them were adopted into US families, partly due to a long tradition of America-South Korea interconnectedness. After the Korean war, pretty much all the money that rebuilt Korea came from the US, for example, and Koreans have long had a sense of their own fate being intertwined with America's.

Anyway, thank you for sharing about your daughter-in-law! I hope that answered your question!


Posted May. 07, 2012 Go to Top | Bottom | link | alert
SamuelPark

Join Date: 05/03/12

Posts: 5

Do any of the character names in the book have meanings?

Hi lisag,

I had a very tricky time naming the characters due to a personal rule I have that no two characters can start their names with the same letter. That means that once a letter is used, all possible names starting with that letter are ruled out. The reason I do that is because I don't want to confuse readers, with too many David, Derek, Daisy, etc. A lot of the names have personal significance to me. "Min" is the name of the actor who starred in the film "Madame Freedom," one of my favorite Korean films. "Yul" is the name of a real life Korean man who won the show Survivor, and I'm an inveterate fan of reality TV shows. I also loved that "Yul" sounds like "you." "Eun-Mee" is a selfish and vain character, she's all "me, me, me!" When I saw her name on a list of Korean names, I thought, that's perfect. And Soo-Ja was the hardest to name; it took me forever to chose that. But I knew it had to start with the letter S, because my mother's nickname started with that letter, and as you probably know, the book was inspired by her life.

I hope that answers it!


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