In The Final Story of Mina Lee, I See My Personal Korean-American Story and the Sacrifices That Bought Us Right here



When my father was a toddler, he was adopted from an orphanage in Korea by an American couple. Whereas we’ve not been in a position to monitor down the id of his organic Korean mom (his father was an American soldier), we do know that for causes we could by no means totally perceive, she gave him up for adoption to have an opportunity at a greater life, a life she did not assume she’d ever be capable of give him. It is a sacrifice I am unable to even start to grasp making.
“What did this nation ask us all to sacrifice? Was it attainable to really feel something whereas we had been all making an attempt to get forward of everybody else, together with our self?”
My story just isn’t similar to that of 20-something Margot Lee in Nancy Jooyoun Kim’s debut novel, The Final Story of Mina Lee, and that is sort of the purpose. We’re the identical, however completely different. These of us residing in america whose ancestors who got here from different international locations (and only a reminder, that is plenty of us) have our personal distinctive tales of ache, loss, danger, hope, luck, and love which have led us to the place we are actually on this “land of the free and the house of the courageous.” However many people can relate to Kim’s recurring theme of the wrestle, sacrifice, and bravado of immigrants coming to America for an opportunity at a greater life.

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I used to be struck by a second within the guide when Margot contemplates the distinction between the true nature of Koreans residing in Korea vs. the one model of her ancestors she’s seen, “immigrants hardened by the realities of residing out of the country.” Kim writes:
“What did this nation ask us all to sacrifice? Was it attainable to really feel something whereas we had been all making an attempt to get forward of everybody else, together with our self?”
Set in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, The Final Story of Mina Lee alternates between the late ’80s and 2014 from the views of Margot and her mother Mina. We study straight away that Mina has mysteriously died, and as Margot items collectively the occasions that led to her demise, she uncovers particulars about her mother’s life that she by no means knew. It is each a heartbreaking story of a fractured mother-daughter relationship reduce brief and a devastating take a look at the realities of being an immigrant in America.
By the alternating views, we’re in a position to see how the language barrier between Margot and Mina is a roadblock to their relationship, each of them so related of their stubbornness: Margot, refusing to study Korean as she associates it with the disgrace of her poor upbringing, and Mina, refusing to study English in her older age for sensible causes (what is the level, when the one English-speaking individual she interacts with is Mina?) and emotions of embarrassment. Mina needs to guard Margot from studying about her painful background, which additionally retains them from actually opening up to one another and recognizing they are not that completely different in any case. At one level, Margot remembers her mother giving her a shower when she is younger, and when she asks her about her dad, her mother breaks her usually composed demeanor with an sudden tearful response. Kim writes:
“In these uncommon moments of nice tenderness and fragility, their sanity rattling like glass cups in a cabinet throughout a quake, Margot realized that households had been our biggest supply of ache, whether or not they had misplaced or deserted us, or just scrubbed our heads.”

“In these uncommon moments of nice tenderness and fragility, their sanity rattling like glass cups in a cabinet throughout a quake, Margot realized that households had been our biggest supply of ache, whether or not they had misplaced or deserted us, or just scrubbed our heads.”
As a reader, you’ll be able to witness the deep love and but all-too-relatable frustrations of a mother-daughter relationship: the push and pull of wanting area but wanting closeness, wanting to guard somebody you’re keen on from harsh truths but eager to be totally seen and understood. It makes it all of the extra gut-wrenching to know that there cannot be a decision, that they’re going to by no means be capable of say the issues they saved that means to say.
Whereas the novel’s tone is usually mild (albeit emotional) all through, there is a heavy weight to the subject material. Even when you do not relate to the harrowing plight of the Korean and Latinx immigrants within the story, who amongst us would not know the sentiments of guilt and loss when a liked one is taken from us earlier than we may restore what’s damaged or totally expose our vulnerabilities and share our true selves?
Its relatability apart, The Final Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim ($20) is a well timed, necessary novel this election season, and I like to recommend you give it a learn. Try extra new September guide releases right here.
The Candy Spot
Followers of Celeste Ng will not be capable of put down this heartfelt, cross-generational novel in regards to the highly effective bond and fragility of household and what it actually means to try for the “American dream.”



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