Summary and book reviews of Everything Asian by Sung Woo

Everything Asian

A Novel

by Sung J. Woo

Everything Asian by Sung J. Woo X
Everything Asian by Sung J. Woo
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 2009, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2010, 336 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Beth Hemke Shapiro
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

David King was twelve years old when he moved from Korea to New Jersey. In loosely-connected tales, we follow David as he adapts to his new country.

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...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

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 (486 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

Media Reviews

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.

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.

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.

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

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

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-...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Everything Asian, try these:

  • Savage Feast jacket

    Savage Feast

    by Boris Fishman

    Published 2019

    About this book

    More books by this author

    The acclaimed author of A Replacement Life shifts between heartbreak and humor in this gorgeously told, recipe-filled memoir. A family story, an immigrant story, a love story, and an epic meal, Savage Feast explores the challenges of navigating two cultures from an unusual angle.

  • Forgotten Country jacket

    Forgotten Country

    by Catherine Chung

    Published 2013

    About this book

    More books by this author

    Weaving Korean folklore within a modern narrative of immigration and identity, Forgotten Country is a fierce exploration of the inevitability of loss, the conflict between obligation and freedom, and a family struggling to find its way out of silence and back to one another.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Trust Exercise
    Trust Exercise
    by Susan Choi
    At face value, Susan Choi's latest release, Trust Exercise, appears to be a familiar story. ...
  • Book Jacket: An American Summer
    An American Summer
    by Alex Kotlowitz
    As a Chicagoan, I've become used to the most common reactions when I'm traveling and tell someone ...
  • Book Jacket: The Sun Is a Compass
    The Sun Is a Compass
    by Caroline Van Hemert
    Caroline Van Hemert fell in love with her future husband, Pat, in 2001, discovering they shared a ...
  • Book Jacket: Women Talking
    Women Talking
    by Miriam Toews
    Miriam Toews' Women Talking is a circadian novel, unfolding over a span of just a few hours and ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    D-Day Girls
    by Sarah Rose

    The dramatic story of the extraordinary women recruited by Britain's elite spy agency to help pave the way for Allied victory.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Courting Mr. Lincoln
    by Louis Bayard

    A master storyteller at the height of his powers, delivers a page-turning tale of love, longing, and forbidden possibilities.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
An American Marriage
by Tayari Jones

A masterpiece of storytelling, and a 2018 Oprah's Book Club Selection.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Book Club Giveaway!
Win Women Rowing North

The instant New York Times bestseller

A guide to wisdom, authenticity, and bliss for women as they age.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A B Penny A T U

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.