Regular blog followers know that I like to read fiction about the immigrant experience. Books like Away, by Amy Bloom (Eastern European Jewish immigrants); Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin (Irish); Shanghai Girls, by Lisa See (Chinese); and Voice of America, by E. C. Osondu (Nigerian) offer insight into how people deal with loss and change and how they survive (and with any luck, thrive) in new situations.
Drifting House covers new territory for me. It’s a collection of short stories that describe the experience of emigrating from Korea to the U.S., or in some stories, the experience of escaping from North Korea to South Korea or to China. These are not happy tales (especially the North Korean ones, as you would imagine) and even in the stories where people move from South Korea to relatively secure situations in California, the characters experience little optimism or renewal. Lee’s writing is precise and crystal clear, but also icy cold. Her characters remain opaque and I did not connect to any of them.
This is a slim volume, easily digested in small doses. I do think it does a good job adding another piece to the puzzle that is the American immigrant experience. Not everyone is as happy to be here as we might think, even if what they left behind wasn’t so hot either.
(Book 12, 2012)