Isadora Myung Hee SohnIsaworships her mother, an exceptional beauty, born in Seoul and sheltered in a harem of sisters inside the wealthy familys compound. Isas 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 Isas 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 sophisticationtheyve achieved the American dreamshe 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 mothers strict adherence to Korean traditional values, she is involved with another man, and Isa determines to make the affair known. What begins as a childs unthinking fury at her mother soon leads to more deadly consequences.
Min also illuminates a universal truth - that all of us are to an extent "second-generation" children, because we're all born into a secondhand world, "what is novel to us is only so because we're newborn"; and each of us must find our own place in this hand-me-down society. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
The New Yorker
This disquieting debut 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, as when the narrator describes the dregs of whiskey in a glass as her father's "spoor," or recalls her lover's "dazzling Kabuki face."
The plot lurches and meanders, but Min's rendering of an outsider family's tight-knit alienation is spot-on.
High School Journal
Min poignantly captures the dilemma of second-generation Americans as they try to find a place in their universe, but she also tells of a quest for self-discovery, which is universal.
Touching and bittersweet, this novel is filled with universal themes presented through Isa's eyes and should resonate with teen readers of both today and yesterday.
Min evokes period and place as well as characters with stringent attention and honesty.
John Dalton, author of Heaven Lake
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.
Katherine Min was born in
Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, and
graduated from Amherst College and the
Columbia School of Journalism. She
currently teaches at Plymouth State
University and the Iowa Summer Writing
Her short stories have appeared in many
publications and have been anthologized,
most recently in The Pushcart Book of
Stories: The Best Short Stories from a
Quarter-Century of The Pushcart Prize.
"Eyelids" was listed as one of 100
distinguished stories in The Best
American Short Stories of 1997. "The
Brick" was read on National Public
Radio's Selected Shorts program in 1999.
"Courting a Monk" won a Pushcart Prize.
Did you know?
About 50% of East Asians (including Isa
in Secondhand World) are born
without a crease in their...
Doria, 15, is growing up in the rough Paris immigrant public housing projects. She sets her dreams against the grim daily struggle of her life: "It's like a film script. . . . trouble is, our scriptwriter's got no talent. And he's never heard of happily ever after."
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