An exquisite collection from a breathtakingly new voice–centered on a constellation of Korean American families, these stories announce the debut of a master of short fiction.
A long-married couple is forced to confront their friend’s painful past when a church revival comes to a nearby town . . . A woman in an arranged marriage struggles to connect with the son she hid from her husband for years . . . A well-meaning sister unwittingly reunites an abuser with his victims . . . Through the lives of an indelible array of individuals–musicians, housewives and pastors, children and grandparents, the men and women who own the dry cleaners and the mini-marts–Yoon Choi explores the Korean American experience at its interstices: where first and second generations either clash or find common ground; where meaning falls in the cracks between languages; where relationships bend under the weight of tenderness and disappointment; where displacement turns to heartbreak.
Suffused with a profound understanding of humanity, Skinship is, ultimately, a searing look at the failure of intimacy to show us who the people we love truly are.
Published by Knopf Publishing Group in August 2021!
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Eight stories. Eight Korean-American experiences. Eight intricate tales that navigate family, grief, immigration, social hierarchies, displacement, trauma, and separation. Drenched in emotions and dipped in genuinity, this debut collection easily paints a grey area of realism to unravel the heart of a diaspora that bears the weight of sacrifices, the torch of culture, and an awkward longing for something more—something closer to home, here or there.
What already impressed me in Choi’s short story that was selected by Roxanne Gay for Best American Short Stories 2018, The Art of Losing—a grief-filled, subtly wrenching, and outright emotional tale of an ageing couple treading the present and the past; memories that are clear and remembrances that are hazy due to Alzheimer’s—continued to stir me in this collection. From a Korean mother leaving behind her child to enter an arranged marriage with an American, to an adoptee who observes the artefacts in the home of an old, dying, veteran of the Korean war with detachment while his mind is focused on his own aspirations, the stories might be simple but are not effortless.
I’m not Korean, I’m not American, but this collection touched me through its wide spectrum of voices from a singular culture encompassing various identities: not by demanding sympathy, not by opening a window for you to look in, not by playing the game of morality—but by letting the tales unfurl on its own through a language and a storytelling method that gives them all the space and time they deserve.
my rating ↣ ★★★★★
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