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The Magical Language of Others Summary and Reviews

The Magical Language of Others

by E. J. Koh

The Magical Language of Others by E. J. Koh X
The Magical Language of Others by E. J. Koh
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  • Published Jan 2020
    203 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

A tale of deep bonds to family, place, language - of hard-won selfhood told by a singular, incandescent voice.

The Magical Language of Others is a powerful and aching love story in letters, from mother to daughter. After living in America for over a decade, Eun Ji Koh's parents return to South Korea for work, leaving fifteen-year-old Eun Ji and her brother behind in California. Overnight, Eun Ji finds herself abandoned and adrift in a world made strange by her mother's absence. Her mother writes letters, in Korean, over the years seeking forgiveness and love―letters Eun Ji cannot fully understand until she finds them years later hidden in a box.

As Eun Ji translates the letters, she looks to history―her grandmother Jun's years as a lovesick wife in Daejeon, the horrors her grandmother Kumiko witnessed during the Jeju Island Massacre―and to poetry, as well as her own lived experience to answer questions inside all of us. Where do the stories of our mothers and grandmothers end and ours begin? How do we find words―in Korean, Japanese, English, or any language―to articulate the profound ways that distance can shape love? Eun Ji Koh fearlessly grapples with forgiveness, reconciliation, legacy, and intergenerational trauma, arriving at insights that are essential reading for anyone who has ever had to balance love, longing, heartbreak, and joy.

The Magical Language of Others weaves a profound tale of hard-won selfhood and our deep bonds to family, place, and language, introducing―in Eun Ji Koh―a singular, incandescent voice.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"A poignant transgenerational story of trauma and recovery in South Korea, Japan, and America." - Library Journal

"Koh also provides information on her travels to Japan, where she studied, and her brief stint as a dancer in Korea, and she explains how she eventually found her way into a poetry writing program in college and how that further helped her grasp the feelings embedded in her mother's letters. Intimate, subtle insights about a unique mother-daughter relationship." - Kirkus Reviews

"This memoir broke my heart. The tragedies that filled the lives of Koh's mother and grandmothers are woven into mythic, magic tales in Koh's hands. Only by Koh's grace and mastery are we not crushed by the stories within The Magical Language of Others. I could read this book a thousand times over." - Sarah Blake, Naamah

"E.J. Koh's The Magical Language of Others grapples with intergenerational loss and love between mothers and daughters across time, war, and immigration. Koh's painful journey is bridged by her mother's letters, which she translates, unfolding the language of mothering and tenderness. Koh remarkably and beautifully translates the language of mothers as the language of survivors." - Don Mee Choi, author of Hardly War

"Indisputably brilliant. I read The Magical Language of Others in a single sitting--all the while never wanting it to end." - Jeannie Vanasco, Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl

"A coming-of-age story, a family story, and a meditation on language and translation, with an emotional range to match." - Caitlin Horrocks, The Vexations

This information about The Magical Language of Others was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

E. J. Koh

E. J. Koh is the author of poetry collection A Lesser Love, winner of the Pleiades Editors Prize (Louisiana State U. Press, 2017). Her poems, translations, and stories have appeared in Boston Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, World Literature Today, among others. She is the recipient of The MacDowell Colony and Kundiman fellowships, 2017 ALTA Emerging Translator Mentorship, and is Runner-Up for the 2018 Prairie Schooner Summer Nonfiction Prize.

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