Summary and book reviews of Skinship by Yoon Choi

Skinship

by Yoon Choi

Skinship by Yoon Choi X
Skinship by Yoon Choi
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Aug 2021, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Tasneem Pocketwala
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About this Book

Book Summary

An exquisite collection from a breathtaking new voice - centered on a constellation of Korean American families.

A long-married couple is forced to confront their friend's painful past when a church revival comes to a nearby town...A woman in an arranged marriage struggles to connect with the son she hid from her husband for years...A well-meaning sister unwittingly reunites an abuser with his victims.

Through an indelible array of lives, Yoon Choi explores where first and second generations either clash or find common ground, where meaning falls in the cracks between languages, where relationships bend under the weight of tenderness and disappointment, where displacement turns to heartbreak.

Skinship is suffused with a profound understanding of humanity and offers a searing look at who the people we love truly are.

The church of abundant life

Soo occupies the high stool behind the register as her husband, Jae, brings in the cartons of eggs, the infant formula, the glue traps, the dried beans, the Little Debbie cakes, the single rolls of toilet paper, the strawberry cigars, the Jamaican castor oil, the yellow boxes of S.O.S. steel wool, the cough syrup, the cereal, the hydroquinone cream, the little glass pipes of love roses, the foil-capped plastic barrel drinks called Little Hugs that their customers call grenades. It is a Wednesday. On Wednesdays, Jae restocks the store.

"Just see this," he says to her in Korean, setting down a final stack of boxes. "Would you just take a look at this?" He takes a Chosun Ilbo from the top of a box and slaps it on the counter. She does not put up the reading glasses that she wears on a chain around her neck. Without them, she can only discern that what Jae has put in front of her is some kind of an ad.

Men, she says to herself in consolation.

Soo knows that if Jae...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The stories present a sweeping view of Yoon's characters, so though we're with them for only a few pages, the depth of the flashbacks and backstories are so illuminating, it feels as if she's giving us unlimited access to them. Choi's stories are built up on small moments, constructed upon a frame of tiny potent instances that she tends to with careful, laborious detail. In "A Map of the Simplified World," a young child's crucial moment of change occurs when she slightly betrays her friend. That moment doesn't come out of context; it is borne of the progression of many other small moments of development, of a person's subtle becoming...continued

Full Review (618 words).

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(Reviewed by Tasneem Pocketwala).

Media Reviews

New York Times Book Review
In every sense of the word 'skinship,' there is an element of affection, one that seeps through every page of Choi's debut ... Choi's characters live, forget, make bonds, break them, heal them or not. Their affections are no less deep for the circumstances that often separate them from one another.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune
An Alice Munro for the 21st century…Choi's collection of short stories is an inventive, dazzling work…Each piece is a banger…Superb…Skinship is one of this year's literary triumphs.

Oprah Daily (A Best Book of the Month)
Brilliant stories…In its exacting prose, adroit pacing, and meticulously realized lives, this dazzling debut delivers.

Publishers Weekly
"[P]oignant...While Choi tends to lean on similar narrative elements, she handles them with skill and humanity, and succeeds in making every character complex. Each voice has something meaningful to say in this accomplished collection.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Choi's stories are both closely observed and expansive, a feat of narrative engineering that places her next to Alice Munro. Nearly every one builds to what feels like an epiphany, or a pearl of wisdom, only to rush on for more pages as though to remind us that life does not stand still, that flux is the normal state of things, and loss always lurks on love's horizon. An exceptional debut.

Booklist (starred review)
Stupendous...Impeccable...A masterpiece.

Author Blurb Adam Johnson
Think Alice Munro. Think Tobias Wolff. Think Lucia Berlin. Yoon Choi is a writer whose talents must be measured on the Richter Scale. The eight rich stories in this debut collection Skinship send tremors through our sensibilities, forcing us to reimagine the bonds that secure families, marriages, and generations. The rolling cadence of Choi's prose—at turns lovely, wise, and funny—releases her characters' voices to speak the truth of lives they'd likely never have otherwise been able to share. And what lives they are. Skinship charts the underlying power and deep humanity of those remanded to be bodega owners' wives, arranged brides, hospice workers, and caretakers, all with inner realms that cascade forth under Choi's careful gaze.

Author Blurb Chang-rae Lee
To encounter these achingly truthful, beautiful stories of newcomer Americans is like gazing up at the starry vault of a perfect night sky; it's immediately dazzling and impressive, and yet the closer and deeper you look, the more you appreciate the sheer countless brilliance of Yoon Choi's observations of love and devotion and sacrifice. Here is a writer who roots you and unsettles you and then roots you again in a new and revelatory axis.

Author Blurb Tessa Hadley
Lovely stories, such a good writer, everything so delicately made but robust and unsentimental too.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Skinship in Korean Culture

Members of K-pop group BTS hugging after winning Artist of the Year at Mnet Asian Music Awards "Skinship" is a term commonly used to describe physical affection in Korean culture. It can be read as a portmanteau of the words "skin" and "kinship." In the eponymous story from her book Skinship, Yoon Choi puts a different spin on the word's agreed meaning and uses it in an unexpected way. In the last scenes, instead of any kind of loving touch, physical contact in the form of violence becomes the turning point in a dysfunctional family's dynamics, and eventually their fate.

"Skinship" may have its origins as an English-derived, Japanese-coined word, and can refer to the bond through touch between mother and child. It has also come to generally describe bonding through physical contact that takes the form of carefree touching, ...

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