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[LITERATURE] Marie Myung-Ok Lee (Author of "Somebody's Daughter" & others)

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  • madchinaman
    About Marie Myung-Ok Lee http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Race_Ethnicity/faculty_staff.php? facultyID=10 Marie Myung-Ok Lee was born and raised in Bob Dylan s
    Message 1 of 1 , May 12, 2005
      About Marie Myung-Ok Lee
      http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Race_Ethnicity/faculty_staff.php?
      facultyID=10


      Marie Myung-Ok Lee was born and raised in Bob Dylan's hometown of
      Hibbing, Minnesota. Her stories and essays have been published in
      Witness, The Kenyon Review, Newsweek, and the New York Times. She
      has received many honors for her work, including an O. Henry
      honorable mention for an adaption of a chapter from her most recent
      novel, Somebody's Daughter. Lee has been a MacDowell Colony fellow,
      has served as a National Book Award judge, and has taught fiction
      writing at Yale University. She is a founder of the Asian American
      Writers' Workshop. She is currently a Visiting Lecturer at the
      Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in the Americas at Brown
      University.

      Lee's most recent novel, Somebody's Daughter, is based on her year
      as a Fulbright Scholar to Korea, taking oral histories of Korean
      birth mothers. She has been involved in the adoptee community for
      many years. One of her family members is adopted from Korea.


      =====


      http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Race_Ethnicity/faculty_staff/mariele
      e/index.html
      Marie Myung-Ok Lee was born and raised in Bob Dylan's hometown,
      Hibbing, Minnesota. Her stories and essays have been published in
      Witness, The Kenyon Review, Newsweek, and the New York Times. She
      has received many honors for her work, including an O. Henry
      honorable mention for an adaption of a chapter from Somebody's
      Daughter. Lee has been a MacDowell Colony fellow, has served as a
      National Book Award judge, and has taught fiction writing at Yale
      University. She is a founder of the Asian American Writers'
      Workshop. She is currently a Visiting Lecturer at the Center for
      the Study of Race and Ethnicity in the Americas at Brown University.

      Lee's most recent novel, Somebody's Daughter, is based on her year
      as a Fulbright Scholar to Korea, taking oral histories of Korean
      birth mothers. She has been involved in the adoptee community for
      many years. One of her family members is adopted from Korea.

      Comments on Somebody's Daughter:

      *Starred Review* "All her life, Korea-born Lee Soon-Min has been
      told that her biological parents were killed in an automobile crash.
      (As an infant, she was adopted by a repressive but well-meaning
      midwestern couple who renamed her Sarah). In truth, Sarah was
      abandoned on the steps of a Seoul firehouse soon after her mother,
      penniless and jilted by her American lover, gave birth. When Sarah,
      now 19, travels to Korea, she becomes obsessed with discovering the
      truth about her past. She studies Korean, visits the agency that
      orchestrated her adoption, even broadcasts her predicament on a
      local television show. The author's use of alternating narrators
      keeps the plot in high gear, as the paths of mother and daughter
      seem destined to converge. Her colorful characters crackle and pop
      off the page: a restaurant owner with a "rosary of farts trailing
      out from between her thick thighs" and a malaprop-spewing Korean
      soldier who suggests that an emotionally troubled peer see
      a "shrimp." Lee, a Korean American, has earned critical acclaim for
      her books for young adults, including Finding My Voice (1992). Here
      she renders a grown-up gem of a novel where joy mingles with sorrow,
      and heartbreak is laced with hope."
      -- Booklist

      ================

      Somebody's Daughter
      A Novel
      http://www.beacon.org/catalogs/sp05/lee.html


      A poignant novel of an adopted girl's search for identity by a
      celebrated Korean American author

      Somebody's Daughter is the story of nineteen-year-old Sarah Thorson,
      who was adopted as a baby by a Lutheran couple in the Midwest. After
      dropping out of the University of Minnesota, she decides to study in
      Korea for a summer, more by happenstance than actual design, but as
      the summer progresses she becomes more and more intrigued by her
      Korean heritage and eventually embarks on a crusade to find her
      birthmother. Paralleling Sarah's story is that of Kyung-sook, who
      was forced by difficult circumstances to let her baby be swept away
      from her immediately after birth, but who has always longed for her
      lost child. The two stories are told side by side: Kyung-sook's is
      the remembrance of her childhood involvement with an American who
      eventually abandons her when she refuses to have an abortion, while
      Sarah's is the contemporary story of her deepening involvement with
      the culture and language of Korea, with Doug, her Korean American
      classmate, and with her search. These two narratives converge in one
      poignant moment, when the two women literally pass each other like
      ships in the night.

      Marie Myung-Ok Lee, author of four young adult novels, including
      Finding My Voice and Saying Goodbye, graduated from Brown
      University. Her stories and essays have been published in The Kenyon
      Review, The American Voice, and the New York Times. She has received
      many honors for her writing, including an O. Henry honorable mention
      for an adaptation of a chapter in this novel, the Best Book Award
      from the Friends of American Writers, and a Best Book for Reluctant
      Readers citation from the American Library Association. She has been
      a MacDowell Colony fellow and grant recipient and has served as a
      National Book Award judge for young people's literature. She
      currently lives and writes in Providence, Rhode Island.


      =


      May 08, 2005
      My goodness. I am really new to this bloggy thing, introduced by my
      old buddy from college days, Christian Crumlish of Mediajunkie (and
      Radio Free Blogistan) who so generously set up and is hosting this
      site (thanks xian!!!). So anyway, my publicist told me there's a
      very "cute" and "heartfelt" discussion going on about how some
      Korean adoptees really like SOMEBODY'S DAUGHTER. SO I do a Google
      search and come up with this: Asian American Empowerment:
      ModelMinority.com - A Korean-American Journey. Yowch!!!! Being
      flamed solely because this article from the local paper mentions I
      am married to some WHITE GUY (honkey, caucasian, gringo, take your
      pick). That someone makes me a sell-out and also gives some of the
      participants of this "Asian American empowerment site" to write also
      sorts of vulgar and gross things about me.

      The article, I think, was posted sincerely as news, but the replies
      from readers has quickly degenerated into a flame fest with me at
      the center. Please note that a few brave WOMEN (kudos to you!!!)
      called these anonymous posters on their illogic (i.e., how can they
      possibly deduce anything about me, or my work from this fact???) Of
      course, these women were promptly attacked, too, which makes me
      think that all the vitriol is coming from some other deep-seated
      place in these posters, and this article is just a useful "excuse"
      to vent their rage. It was also weird, the posting of the URL to my
      Brown website, somehow insinuating that by looking at my pic, they
      can further see what a sellout b**** I am. NICE!

      Anyway, it always makes me sad when these interethnic/intertribal
      snarkfests happen. As if our communities don't have enough problems--
      here's all these smart, motivated people directing all energy into
      tearing down fellow minority people they don't even know,
      criticizing work they have not read...and then probably they'll
      probably go crying about how there's no Asian American
      representation in the media. That's why we started the AAWW, so we
      could have more voices out there, not fewer. In this age of irony,
      I'm sorry, but I have to ask sincerely, where is the love, guys?

      =================

      A Korean-American Journey
      By Andy Smith
      ©2005 The Providence Journal
      April 17, 2005
      http://modelminority.com/printout1016.html


      Providence writer Marie Myung-Ok Lee was not adopted. Lately,
      though, a lot of people assume she was.

      "People are coming up to me now and saying, 'I'm adopted, too. Thank
      you for writing our story,' " Lee says.

      Lee says she immediately blurts out that she wasn't adopted. "I
      don't want to be dishonest with anyone," she says.

      The confusion is understandable. Lee, a visiting lecturer at Brown
      University's Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, has just
      published her first novel for adults, Somebody's Daughter (Beacon
      Press, $23.95), about a Korean adoptee who returns to her homeland
      to search for her birth mother.

      The story is told in two parallel narratives, both of which have the
      ring of authenticity.

      The first voice is 19-year-old Sarah Thorson, a Korean-American girl
      raised in Minnesota by parents of Scandinavian ancestry. Feeling
      alienated and misunderstood, Sarah decides to go to Korea to search
      for her roots.

      The novel's second story belongs to Kyung-sook, a Korean woman who
      sells shrimp in a village marketplace and still wonders about the
      child she abandoned in the '70s after she became pregnant by an
      American musician.

      "Including the voice of the birth mother gives the book a trans-
      national perspective. It takes what is becoming a very familiar
      story of adoption and adds a new dimension," says Matt Garcia, a
      Brown University professor who is using the book in his class "Sex,
      Love, Race: Miscegenation, Mixed-Race, and Interracial Relations."

      The official release date for Somebody's Daughter was Friday,
      although copies were in bookstores before then. Garcia got Beacon
      Press to send him advance copies for the class.

      To gather insights into the emotions of Korean birth mothers, Lee
      went to Korea on a Fulbright Fellowship in 1997-1998. There she
      interviewed women who had given up children for adoption.

      During an interview of her own at the ethnicity-study center on
      Providence's East Side, Lee said it was not easy finding these women
      and gaining their trust. One place she tried was a home for unwed
      mothers.

      "At first, no one there wanted to talk to me," she said. "But I
      volunteered to teach an English class, which they liked, because
      many of them hoped to come to the United States some day and reunite
      with their children."

      Lee said she didn't use any of the specific stories she heard from
      the Korean women she interviewed, but their collective experiences
      and emotions all inform the character of Kyung-sook.

      Culture clash
      Somebody's Daughter has been in the works for a long time.
      Lee, who graduated from Brown in 1986, said she began writing
      stories about Sarah Thorson back in 1992.

      "I really liked the angry energy of the character," she said. "The
      stories were starting to jell, but I had reached the point where I
      couldn't go any further. That's when I came to the conclusion that I
      had to go to Korea."

      When Lee wrote Somebody's Daughter, after returning from Korea, the
      novel had a third voice, that of Sarah's adoptive mother, Christine.
      But Christine's portion of the book disappeared during the editing
      process.

      Helene Atwan, director of Beacon Press, in Boston, and the editor of
      Somebody's Daughter, said Lee's agent submitted the book to Beacon
      several years ago. At the time, Atwan said, Beacon was not
      publishing new fiction.

      But, Atwan said, the novel stayed with her, and when Beacon decided
      it was going to publish fiction, she remembered Somebody's Daughter
      and asked if it was still available.

      It was.

      Atwan -- who happens to have an adopted daughter herself -- said she
      felt the story would be stronger if it alternated between just two
      voices, mother and daughter.

      Lee said she was reluctant at first to cut out so much of her book.
      But when she did, she found the plot went much more quickly.

      Although Somebody's Daughter is often poignant, there are also comic
      elements in the novel, as Lee plays with the clash of Korean and
      American cultures.

      Sarah might look Korean, but her upbringing has been thoroughly
      American, and she struggles with the Korean language and the
      mysteries of Korean cuisine. Her classmates at Chosun University,
      where she is trying to learn Korean, call her a "Twinkie" -- yellow
      on the outside, white on the inside.

      In one scene, she is saved from possible starvation in Seoul, South
      Korea, when she finds a 7-Eleven that sells ramen noodles.

      As for Kyung-sook, when her American lover introduced her to pizza,
      she decided it might be palatable, if only you could add some sugar,
      lots of sweet-hot pepper paste, and maybe some fish. And scrape off
      the cheese.

      Early influences
      Lee, 40, said she's wanted to be a writer since she was 9 years old.
      She grew up in Hibbing, Minn., also the hometown of Bob Dylan. Her
      parents emigrated to America shortly after the Korean War.

      Assimilation was the goal when she was growing up, Lee said. The
      family didn't speak Korean at home, didn't eat Korean food.

      "My parents treated kimchi [fermented cabbage with hot spices] like
      it was radioactive," Lee said. "I grew up thinking I didn't like
      spicy food. Now I crave it."

      Lee's father, a physician, believed his children should all go to
      Harvard and become doctors. Lee, though, had other ideas.

      "I always had stories in my head. When I was 9, my brother lent me a
      typewriter and I typed up my first story, and I thought how cool and
      professional it looked. I sold my first story to my parents when I
      was 9."

      Early influences, she said, included J.D. Salinger, Mark Twain and
      S.E. Hinton, although she also read potboilers such as Valley of the
      Dolls and those by Sidney Shelton.

      But Lee did not major in writing at Brown, choosing economics
      instead and writing on "The Effect of Development on Third World
      Women's Labor Force Participation."

      After graduation, she worked in research on Wall Street, at Standard
      & Poor's and then Goldman Sachs.

      At the same time, she was getting up every morning at 4 to devote
      time to her writing. In 1991, thanks to her savings and a small
      grant, she quit her Wall Street job to write full time.

      A Korean writer
      Since then, Lee has written a series of young-adult books -- "young
      adult" being publishing talk for teenagers.
      Her first book, 1992's Finding My Voice, is overtly
      autobiographical. The heroine is a Korean teenage girl growing up in
      Minnesota, with a physician father who is obsessed with getting his
      kids into Harvard.

      At high school, she has to deal with the racism of some of her
      classmates.

      "Oh, yes, there was a lot of it," Lee said when asked if she
      experienced racism while going to high school in Hibbing.

      In 1996's

      Necessary Roughness
      , the hero is a Korean teenager named Chan Kim who moves with his
      family from Los Angeles to a small town in Minnesota. A soccer
      player back in L.A., Kim joins the high school football team in
      Minnesota.
      The book required some extra research on Lee's part, since she knew
      nothing about football. (In her acknowledgments, she thanks the
      Hibbing High School football team for letting her watch.)

      So far, all of her novels have focused on Korean protagonists.

      "At Brown, Flannery O'Connor was my favorite author. I was going to
      be a universal writer," Lee said. "Now, being an Asian-American
      writer, being a Korean writer, overtly informs my work."

      Adult themes
      Lee wrote her young-adult novels as Marie G. Lee, not Marie Myung-Ok
      Lee, which she's using for Somebody's Daughter. (The name on her
      birth certificate, she said, is Marie Grace Myung-Ok Lee.)
      Lee said she made the change for a couple of reasons. One was to
      make her Korean identity clear. The other was to avoid confusion
      with another author named Marie Lee, who writes mysteries. (Marie
      Myung-Ok Lee has received fan mail intended for the other Marie
      Lee.)

      Lee doesn't make too much of the distinction between writing
      a "young adult" book and one intended for a more mature audience. A
      lot of the distinction, she said, is a matter of marketing.

      If Catcher in the Rye were published today, she said, it might well
      be considered a young-adult book.

      At Beacon Press, Atwan said Somebody's Daughter could be read by
      teenagers who are sophisticated readers.

      But she said the experiences and observations in Somebody's
      Daughter, particularly the perspective of Kung-sook, are more
      sophisticated than most young-adult fare. (There is also some sexual
      material.)

      Present and future
      Lee is married to Karl Jacoby, a history professor at Brown. The two
      moved to Providence when Brown hired Jacoby in 1998. (Lee was coming
      off her Fulbright Fellowship in Korea; Jacoby was teaching at
      Oberlin College, in Ohio.)
      They have a son, now 5, who has autism. In 2003, Lee wrote a "My
      Turn" column for Newsweek describing the time her son, identified
      only as J, had a meltdown on Thayer Street.

      Lee described how she tried to control her screaming son as he flung
      himself to the ground. People stared and glared, she wrote, assuming
      she was a bad parent who couldn't control her child.

      "My urge during J's fits is always to scream 'My son has a
      neurological disorder!' " she wrote. " . . . The next time you are
      inclined to judge a parent, stop and think. There might be more to
      it than 'bad parenting.' "

      In her interview with The Journal, Lee said it's ironic for someone
      whose life revolves around language to have a child with a language
      disorder.

      Lee plans to teach a class, "Writing History, Writing Self" next
      spring at the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity.

      "Marie is an accomplished writer, and we felt having her would
      enrich the resources of the center," said Evelyn Hu-DeHart, director
      of the center. "She is also able to use our resources, so it is a
      situation in which everyone benefits."

      Meanwhile, Lee said she's got another book in the works, although,
      like many writers, she doesn't want to reveal any more than that.

      She compared some of her writing to driving at night -- you can only
      see so much in advance.


      ==========


      The Author
      http://oaks.hanminjok.net/sub5_2_view.asp?num=850


      Marie Myung-Ok Lee is an acclaimed Korean American writer, author of
      three young adult novels, including Finding My Voice and Saying
      Goodbye, graduated from Brown University. Her stories and essays
      have been published in Witness, The Kenyon Review, Newsweek, and the
      New York Times. She was a Fulbright Scholar to Korea in creative
      writing and has received many honors for her work, including an O.
      Henry honorable mention for an adaptation of a chapter in this
      novel, the Best Book Award from the Friends of American Writers, and
      a Best Book for Young Adults citation from the American Library
      Association. She has been a MacDowell Colony fellow and has served
      as a National Book Award judge for young people's literature, and
      she is a founder of the Asian American Writers Workshop. She is
      currently a visiting scholar at Brown University.


      ====


      Marie Myung-Ok Lee Book Reading - April 21, 2005
      http://www.asiasisters.org/events/past23.html


      Young adult novelist Lee (Finding My Voice, etc.) explores a Korean-
      born girl's complicated journey to define her identity in her
      poignant adult debut. Adopted by a white Minnesota family who tried
      to quash any curiosity Sarah Thorson might have about her homeland,
      the directionless 20-year-old drops out of college and enrolls in a
      Korean-language program in Seoul. As she struggles to fit in, she
      recognizes her desire to learn about her birth family, and she's
      shocked to learn that she was abandoned as a baby (she'd been told
      her parents died in a car accident). With the help of her new
      boyfriend, Korean-American Doug, who educates her about her homeland
      and its citizens ("Cut open a Korean and... you'll find: salt and
      hot red peppers," he tells her over a meal of spicy soup), she goes
      on a Korean TV show dedicated to finding missing persons. Meanwhile,
      Lee spins out the parallel story line of Sarah's birth mother: Kyung-
      Sook had dreams of pursuing a career in Korean folk music, but she
      fell for an American hippie who abandoned her once she became
      pregnant. Now 50, Kyung-Sook sees Sarah on TV and comes to Seoul to
      find her. Lee sidesteps a tender emotional reunion, though, in favor
      of an honest portrayal of a mother's sacrifice and a daughter's
      growth.

      Marie Myung-Ok Lee, author of four young adult novels, including
      Finding My Voice and Saying Goodbye, graduated from Brown
      University. She has received many honors for her writing, including
      an O. Henry honorable mention for an adaptation of a chapter in this
      novel, the Best Book Award from the Friends of American Writers, and
      a Best Book for Reluctant Readers citation from the American Library
      Association. She currently lives and writes in Providence, Rhode
      Island.
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