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The calligrapher's daughter : a novel
Kim, Eugenia
Adult Fiction KIM

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From Publishers' Weekly:

This debut novel, inspired by the life of the author's Korean mother, is a beautiful, deliberate and satisfying story spanning 30 years of Korean history. The tradition-bound aristocratic calligrapher Han refuses to name his daughter because she is born just as the Japanese occupy Korea early in the 20th century. When Han finds a husband for Najin (nicknamed after her mother's birthplace) at 14, her mother objects and instead sends her to the court of the doomed royal Yi family to learn refinement. Najin goes to college and becomes a teacher, proving herself not only as a scholar but as a patriot and humanitarian. She returns home to marry, but her new husband goes without her to study in America when she is denied a visa. As the Japanese systematically obliterate ancient Korean culture and the political climate worsens, so do Najin's fortunes. Her family is reduced to poverty, their home is seized and Najin is imprisoned as a spy while WWII escalates. The author writes at a languorous pace, choosing not to sully her elegant pages with raw brutality, but the key to the story is Korea's monumental suffering at the hands of the Japanese. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Kim's debut is the first-person chronicle of Najin, a young Korean woman growing up during Japan's 30-year occupation of Korea. In 1915, when the story opens, Najin is only a child, though clearly she already resists cultural and familial traditions that would confine her. Najin's father, a proud man whose calligraphy work has earned the royal family's admiration, strives to force Najin into more traditional roles for women. Surprisingly, it is Najin's mother, herself an obedient wife, who assists her daughter along her path to completing her education, sending Najin to serve in the king's court against her husband's wishes. Najin's struggle to maintain traditions while a future with diverse possibilities beckons is the same story that unfolds for her country. The situation only worsens when World War II starts and Japanese oppression intensifies. VERDICT Kim has excelled at portraying Najin as a spirited yet loyal daughter and wife while exposing a tragic time during Korea's sustained history as a nation. [This was a pick at BookExpo 2009's Librarians' Book Shout and Share program.--Ed.]--Faye A. Chadwell, Oregon State Univ. Lib., Corvallis (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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