Summary and book reviews of Everything Asian by Sung Woo

Everything Asian

A Novel

By Sung J. Woo

Everything Asian

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Book Summary

You're twelve years old. A month has passed since your Korean Air flight landed at lovely Newark Airport. Your fifteen-year-old sister is miserable. Your mother isn't exactly happy, either. You're seeing your father for the first time in five years, and although he's nice enough, he might be, well - how can you put this delicately? - a loser.

You can't speak English, but that doesn't stop you from working at East Meets West, your father's gift shop in a strip mall, where everything is new.

Welcome to the wonderful world of David Kim.

Excerpt
Everything Asian

I was waiting to use our apartment’s only bathroom, shifting from foot to foot, when the door burst open and my sister walked out, her eyes raw and puffy, followed closely by Mother, arms tautly alert, ready to catch her if she fell, if she melted, if she died.

My sister had chosen this day, my twelfth birthday, to try to kill herself, or at least pretend to kill herself.  Looking back on that day now, I can see it was merely a stunt to gain attention, and even then I think I knew she was bluffing, but still, I couldn’t ignore the blue dish and the paring knife sitting on top of the toilet seat, its tip pointing toward the bathtub like a compass needle.  On the dish, a pile of white pills sat like an offering.  I put the dish and the knife on the floor and flipped the seat up.  As I peed into the bowl, I stared down at the silver edge of the blade, wondering how close it had come to my sister’s wrists.

When I finished, I ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. In the prologue we see our narrator, David Kim, reminiscing about the recently demolished Peddlers Town. His sister, Sue, joins him at the site for a kind of impromptu commemoration. At the end of the section, David says, "I sit back, close my eyes, and remember." Though we never return to this present-tense present, how does the retrospective frame enrich the novel?
  2. In Sook to Noona to Susan to Sue. Across the book, each member of the Kim family changes. How does the new culture they have to navigate accelerate their transformations? Who changes the most? The Kims take on American attributes, but don’t leave their Korean culture behind entirely. Which changes does the author portray as losses, and which as gains?
  3. All comedy is...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Don't be surprised that the book ignores the youthful angst of David's school experiences; this novel is aimed at adult readers, although teens may become engrossed in it as well. Instead, the stories revolve around the small world of Peddlers Town and those who work there, ordinary people at an unremarkable shopping mall who became special to me as Woo unfolded their unique struggles.   (Reviewed by Beth Hemke Shapiro).

Full Review Members Only (792 words).

Media Reviews
Author Blurb Stewart O’Nan, author of Songs for the Missing.
In its clear-eyed take on family and community, Everything Asian is Everything American. The proprietors of this roadside New Jersey shopper's village are by turns dreamy and despairing as their fortunes - like the local economy - change. Sung J. Woo has crafted a debut rich in character and event.

Author Blurb A. Manette Ansay, author of Vinegar Hill and Blue Water.
A tender, funny, beautifully written novel-in-stories, each a sparkling step in the coming-of-age journey of a boy straddling two cultures with remarkable humor and grace. First-time author Sung Woo has created both lasting characters and a timeless portrait of a community.A. Manette Ansay, author of Vinegar Hill and Blue Water.

Publishers Weekly

[A] charming tale of family, community and the struggle for understanding... Woo's text strikes a true chord.

School Library Journal

Woo imbues the story, like others in the collection, with David's overall sense of confusion about this man's American ways. With a mix of humor and drama, Everything Asian makes a fine addition to recreational reading lists.

Booklist

Sharp, immediate … captures the contemporary immigration struggle, but it is also an elemental family drama of fury and tenderness.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Cleverly concatenated stories about the experience of Korean immigrants make up Woo's loosely structured novel ... a novel that both delights and instructs.

Christian Science Monitor - Yvonne Zipp

Woo’s novel has a tenderness underlying the humor and his characters are complicatedly human... the emotions and sheer messiness of the Kims’ home life will resonate with anyone in possession of a relative.

Reader Reviews
Louise J

Beautiful, Gentle & Sweet!!
I loved this story!! Young David Kim immigrates to the United States from Korea in the 1980’s with his mother and sister. Their father has already been in America for the past five years trying to build a business and getting some money behind him ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

100 Years of Korean Immigration
In 2008 there were more than 1.3 million people of Korean ancestry living in the United States, making Koreans the fourth largest group of Asian Americans, after Asian Indians, Chinese and Filipinos. As of 2000, roughly one-third of Korean Americans had been born in the United States, one-third are U.S. citizens born in Korea, and one-third are non-citizens.

The first wave of Korean immigrants came to harvest sugar on the Hawaiian Islands at the turn of the twentieth century, long before Hawaii became the 50th state. These migrants were part of a larger group of Asians who made the trans-...

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