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Book Exploder: Min Jin Lee - Pachinko

2022-08-17 | 🔗

Min Jin Lee is the author of the best-selling novel Pachinko. She’s a Guggenheim Fellow, and the recipient of South Korea's Manhae Grand Prize for Literature. In Pachinko, she tells a sweeping, multi-generational story of a Korean family that moves to Japan. Pachinko is an international best-seller, named one of the best books of 2017 by the New York Times, the BBC, the New York Public Library, and more. In 2022, it was adapted into an Emmy-nominated television series on Apple TV+. In this episode, Min talks to Book Exploder host Susan Orlean about a passage from Chapter 4 of Pachinko: a pivotal scene that takes place in June 1932, in a small fishing village in Korea.

For more, visit bookexploder.com/episodes/min-jin-lee.

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This episode contains explicit language here. Listening to book explode, her were authors, breakdown of passage from their work, to shows how they re onrush case your way, and I'm susan or lean today, speaking with men, Lee who wrote the novel pacheco which came out in twenty seventeen mentioned Lee
is a guggenheim fellow and the recipient of south korea's man. Hey grand prize for literature, Pacheco is an international best seller and was named one of the best books of twenty seventeen by the new york times, the bbc, the new york public library and more in twenty twenty two. It was adapted into an emmy nominated television series on apple tv. This is a ford generation story and I love a book that takes on a big, sweeping epic look at a family, and it does that marvellous thing of talking about social conditions, and in this case this in during bias against koreans in japanese culture, but
doing it through this very personal story, and it's very emotional, it's a it's a pr. I cried in this book. I've had this idea in my head. For thirty years I worked on and off and on for over twenty the idea for this book for this book. So you began with this idea, the family saw no. It was a political history. Wow, that's fascinating! I was so pissed about the fact that the crane in Japan were treated like shit for a hundred years ass. I may I'm really irritated, and I learned about it when I was in college and then I thought I'm gonna write something about that.
In this episode. Susan and men discuss a passage from chapter foreign pacheco, seen that take place in june nineteen, thirty, two in a small fishing village and korea she'll tell me what was going on when you wrote this section. While I was thinking about falling in love and when you fall in love very often and begins with a gaze. Very often, I'm not say all the time obviously, and is seen as about a love story. But the scene is really about feminism. For me, it's really about feminism and also about cultural history. How does patriarchy manifest itself? Can you set this passage up for us? What do we need to know about the book to understand? What's going on in this section this is the very beginning and a book you have two characters. You have the main characters hunger, but you also have missus John, and I turned my character. I join my is car back. It's a very useful crean word for everybody.
no cause, it kind of means any married woman of any it is really about say a little older, so She works at this market, so it's missus John and its under the main character, and this is a First time, that's hunter, really noticed, says hans, so who functions as a romantic, slash villain and this novel- and this is an incredibly important moment in the book, because this is the connection that set everything in. ocean santa looked up and saw the new man and a light colored western suit and white light a shoes he was standing by corrugated ten and would office as with all the other seafood brokers wearing an off white panama hat like the actors in the movie posters, cohesion so stood out like an elegant bird, with milky way, plumage among the other men who were wearing dark close here.
looking hard at her, barely paying attend, to the men speaking around him. So this. Is the moment yeah? This is the first time in her history when somebody like that notices her and it's very important, and I think that sometimes, if you think about the value of People in a society in a room very often occur since value is not determined by what you know about that person. But it's what other people say So I really had to have this third party missus John explained to her that man, whose looking at you he's a dangerous man, he's a powerful man yeah shameless man how he stare at his almost old enough to be your father, the seaweed my rolled her eyes because a man's rich doesn't give them the right to be so brazen with a nice girl from a good family, but unbroken stare is what first images really of hen and
she wonders. Am I valuable because a person like those looking at me and, of course you how this important blog about what it means to be a woman to be an object and also subject you're becoming a woman. Now she should be told us for a woman, the man you Mary, will determine the quality of your life completely. A good man is a decent life and a bad man. It's a curse life, but no matter what always expect suffering and just keep working hard, and I got that philosophy from all my inner is so many women who are korean and korean japanese, told me how much we have suffer in our lives because we have uterus is, and I remember thinking as a crane american woman, I dont want that. I don't wanna suffer this much and I don't unexpected and
I wasn't a baby when people told me that I was in my thirties. Might late thirty's actually amber thing, being like what am I going to do with this idea, this philosophy that life is suffering for women and how it's so determined by the partner that you have, and I thought I have to put it in here. But of course I don't want to write sermons. I wanted to write something dramatic so asking myself to how do I intersect romantic love, feminist philosophy and then this historical aspect of how fish broking works, because I am making a capitalise comment to about people who get rich and would never have to work. The brokers are the market controlled the wholesale purchases of all the fish that went through they're? Not did they have the power to set the prices? They could punish any bode captain or fishermen by refusing to buy his couch. They also dealt with the japanese officials who control the docks area
one defer to the brokers and few felt comfortable around them? Tell me about your field. Research showing that really interests may well I do some journalism, but it's really really hard. The kind of journalism that I'm really interested in is narrative nonfiction, the stuff that you're doing one of the first classes I ever took it yelled about writing was a narrative nonfiction. So I went into the field and I try to go to all the places that are in the book. I went to Osaka I went to kyoto. I was living in Tokyo. I went to Seoul. I went to Jeju. kind of meat as many people who are surviving to talk to them. I talk of their grandchildren. I talk to their parents also had to hire translators because very often I did it not to speak at that level of the law. What else did you just let the conversation go where it was gonna go. Did you have a? Were you looking for people who might
serve as models for the characters in the book, so the korean japanese people have been so screwed over such a long time? They weren't really dying to talk to anybody, and they didn't know me, and I think, oh, it's a very painful thing to talk about your humiliation. So who wants to talk about losing re like because cranes did lose so many things? So what ended up happening as I was taken to a really fancy lot? You know we would go to them by the most expensive restaurants in tokyo out illegal pad and a pan, and I was very casual about my question. So then I would ask something very simple: where no one feels embarrassed by answering like oh: what's your name, you gotta elementary school, tell me where you grow up and then I write down a cup All of these things, and then I would let the conversation plough I'm very often I might meet let's say a wall street person whose cringe japanese and he would say, I've
our faces discrimination. Things were really great for the greens. Japanese people Invariably at like our to our three of the meal, he would say oh. I wasn't allowed to visit my friends homes because I was korean japanese, the girl that I dumped me and said we couldn't get married because I was korean japanese. I couldn't rent an apartment because I'm korean, japanese and then you'd think like. Oh, that's so interesting. You talk to people and they say one thing, but then their anecdotes actually contradict their thesis statement. So that's happened so many times to me. I'm sure it's happened to you yeah I've decided that you have to let people talk just have the key, letting the tape role and it takes a lot of time will be right. Back with more after this, I want to ask you: on a craft level, there is a lot of white imagery
and the section who you ve got pansies white shoes. You were four days milky white plumage, co hunter stood out like an elegant bird with milky way. Image among the other men who were wearing dark close there is the other reference to fish. Brokers the lawyers. Other boardinghouse spoke of them as arrogant, interlopers who made all their profits from fishing the fish smell off their smooth white hands. You use a lot of tree throughout the book. By In this section, the whiteness stood out to me, particularly with his white shoes, were weaving who wear white shoes to to a fish mark. It only somebody with the arrogance of feeling they won't get dirty right and also can replace whatever does get thirty. So it's also an expression of power
If you buy something it's white leather, I kind of think. While you must really have money, because you don't care about the ink stayin or dirt or scratches and consumers, image comes more real historical photograph. Oh so I found a real physical the who was wearing that outfit and then when I saw it, I thought wow talk about flexing your power when Emily. else around and looks like some sort of greece. The shadow thought, will, wouldn't it be interesting if my main character had that kind of I already arrogance and the capacity for potent straight. I also wanted to write about whiteness because in east asian culture, color ism is such an important thing. I meets an important thing in error: where, but in east asia, people spend an enormous amount of money trying to be as pale as possible even now, because whiteness is
universally globally seen as something that denotes more beauty more power. So I wanted to have both of those Things on there- and this is again with a craftsman level. How do I get the imagery point of view, town, syntax, diction, all those things and also manage to send my message, which is, I dont, think women should always offer. I just start soon. That was my next question, which once we end this passage about a woman's life at being endless, work and suffering, no matter what always expect suffering and just keep working hard, no one will take care of a poor woman just ourselves. Clearly, you went into this book with a lot of very specific,
They were really important to you to speak to absolutely. I think it is an act of kindness to tell a young person that seeking happiness, isn't everything that there is suffering in life, because in the expected, though, her hair for it when it comes they'll, know how to face it. So I do think there's something good about as a public service message expect some suffering. So there is this the result of multiple drafts, this section outcome. They everything for me is really hard to do. I don't know how to write clean
they right away. I was a corporate lawyer for two years. It wasn't the right thing for me, but when I write one, a masterly drafting, I'm really nice to myself like I can have as much iced coffee as I want that's great. I could break for chocolate like it's all good and though, when I added I become this hard nosed corporate lawyer like no that's, not gonna work, I'm not taking it that a deal break out in its both those things, but I'll actually feel like with writing. You need to have both here. That's really interesting. So much writing is the writer grew
pulling with his or her own life and questions about life. Oh my gosh here. How does that part of it work for you? So I'm fifty wine I've had it. I had a very serious illness, which I don't have any more and I I think well, how long do I have to live like, though I have five years? Why have fifty years I dont know so should at my projects reflect the worthiness of my attention. I mean this is such an incredibly important topic to me, but also at such an important koreans around the world- and I thought, if I got it wrong, it would be a terrible thing and I got really depressed really really depend While I was writing it because I can't them like nobody cares most evil.
I have no interest in asia minor. One point I thought: oh, my god, I'm gonna die and I won't finish and then there will be a waste of my personal life. Writing normal that such a chimpanzee, crazy endeavour. People aren't you sitting fear book, not really so when you write them, you have to really have a reason, and for me it's, how do I two great all of my deep interests: economics, politics, history, feminism all of it has to be in there, but I also want people to read it and now. Here's mid July readings passage from Pacheco. Sunday was buying seaweed, Nicole man's wife, who saw the best quality the item. I noticed that the new fish perker was staring at the boarding house Carl shameless me. how he stared he's almost old enough to be your father, the sea
he'd item I rolled her eyes just because a man bridge doesn't give them the right to be so brazen with a nice girl from a good family. Santa locked up and saw the new man and the light colored western suit and white light her shoes. He was standing by corrugated, ten and would office, as with all the other seafood brokers wearing an off white panama hat like the actors in the movie posters, co, hans, who stood out like an elegant bird with milky white plumage among the other men who were wearing dark close. He was looking hearted, her barely paying it to the men speaking around him, the brokers, other market controlled, the wholesale perch, says of all the fish that went through they're. Not
did they have the power to set the prices? They could punish any boat captain or fishermen by refusing to buy his couch. They also dealt with the japanese officials who control the docks area. The defer to the brokers and few felt comfortable around them. The brokers, rare He mixed socially outside their group, the lodgers at the boarding house, spoke of I'm an arrogant interlopers who made all the profits from fishing but kept the fish small author smooth white hands, regardless the fishermen, the stone good terms with these men who had ready cash for purchases and then needed advance when the catch wasn't any good I like you is bound to be noticed by some fancy man, but this one seems true shark he's a change, your name.
If that lives in our soccer I hear he can speak perfect. Japanese. My husband said he was smarter than all of them put together by crafty emma. He stood looking at you, the sea weed item I flushed red straight down to her collar bone sunday shook her head. Not wanting to check the lodgers flirted with her? She ignored them and her work and she would behave differently. Now the edges of the marked attended to exaggerate anyway, I have the seaweed that my mother likes Sondra faint interest, the oblong piles of dried seaweed, folded like fabric separated. Rose a varying quality and price, remember bring herself the item and blinked wrapped a large, russian of sea weed for asunder the girl counted out. The coins then accepted the parcel with two hands.
Her mother is taking care of how many lodgers now six from the corner of her. I suppose I could see that the man was now talking to another broker, but still walking in her direction. She's very busy of course she is sunday. A woman's life is endless, work and suffering. There are suffering and then more suffering its better to expect that you know you're becoming a woman now, so you should be told us for a while when the man you mary will determine the quality of your life completely. A good man is a decent life and a bad man as a cursed life, but no matter what always expect suffering and just keep working hard. No one will take care of a poor woman just
ourselves. Selves is available in hard cover. Paperback and audio book means website is minutely, dot com, you can visit us at book, explode or dot com for more information. This episode of book, exploiter, was produced by me, feel welcome Julia. Both hero answers, like song, is our production system grandpa. She created the book exploiter logo for episode. Our work is by polish jackson, I made the shows theme is book. Exploiter is proud. Member of radio toby from pierre wrecks, the network of independent listener, supported artist, don't upon find out more. radio toby? I got a family reunification away and susan or thanks for listening
Transcript generated on 2023-06-16.