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Everything Asian

by Sung J. Woo
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
  • Publishing date: 14/04/2009
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780312538859
  • ISBN: 0312538855


You're twelve years old. A month has passed since your Korean Air flight landed at lovely Newark Airport. Your fifteen-year-old sister is miserable. Your mother isn't exactly happy, either. You're seeing your father for the first time in five years, and although he's nice enough, he might be, well--how can you put this delicately?--a loser.

You can't speak English, but that doesn't stop you from working at East Meets West, your father's gift shop in a strip mall, where everything is new.

Welcome to the wonderful world of David Kim.

Sung J. Woo's short stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times, McSweeney’s, and KoreAm Journal. His short film was an audience choice screening of the NYC Downtown Short Film Festival 2008. A graduate of Cornell University with an MFA from New York University, he lives in Washington, New Jersey.

You're twelve years old. A month has passed since your Korean Air flight landed at lovely Newark Airport. Your fifteen-year-old sister is miserable. Your mother isn't exactly happy, either. You're seeing your father for the first time in five years, and although he's nice enough, he might be, well?how can you put this delicately??a loser.

You can't speak English, but that doesn't stop you from working at East Meets West, your father's gift shop in a strip mall, where everything is new.

Welcome to the wonderful world of David Kim.

Set it a New Jersey suburb in the early 1980s, Everything Asian is narrated by David Kim, whose family has just been reunited in America. David's relates the dramedy of his family's first year together in the United States with humor and pathos. His observations extend to Peddlers Town, the rundown, struggling shopping mall where his parents have a store. The family faces competition at the mall; they literally have to fight fire; they attempt to befriend Americans. They celebrate a birthday at a bowling alley and cook a turkey on Thanksgiving. Through it all, the Kims try to understand what it means to be a family in their new country.

"In this charming tale of family, community and the struggle for understanding, young Korean immigrant David Kim learns to acculturate to a new American life. After five years on their own in Seoul, 12-year-old David, his big sister and mother reunite with his father in Oakbridge, N.J. Now known as Harry, David's father has a gift shop in a rundown strip mall called Peddlers Town . . . Woo eschews immigrant clichés to focus on complicated familial relationships and surprising, sympathetic characters; alternating between humor and melancholy, Woo's text strikes a true chord while drawing readers into its strange, strip-mall world."?Publishers Weekly
"Loosely woven together from revealing vignettes about the interconnected characters that share 12-year-old protagonist Dae Joon Kim’s world, Sung Woo’s debut novel is a well-measured, carefully laid out storycloth filled with tenderness and great warmth. After five years of separation, Dae Joon (soon to be David), his sister In Sook (soon to be Susan), and their mother arrive from Korea to be reunited with their near-stranger of a father. The family, who together run an Asian import gift shop in a small New Jersey mall, must somehow re-establish their relationships with one another. Alternately painful and funny?and sometimes both?Woo perfectly captures the disorientation of a young boy caught amidst difficult family dynamics, negotiating a strange new world filled with both loss and discovery . . . Highly recommended."?Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program

"A tender, funny, beautifully written novel-in-stories, each a sparkling step in the coming-of-age journey of a boy straddling two cultures with remarkable humor and grace. First-time author Sung Woo has created both lasting characters and a timeless portrait of a community."?A. Manette Ansay, author of Vinegar Hill and Blue Water

"In its clear-eyed take on family and community, Everything Asian is Everything American. The proprietors of this roadside New Jersey shopper's village are by turns dreamy and despairing as their fortunes?like the local economy?change. Sung J. Woo has crafted a debut rich in character and event."?Stewart O’Nan, author of Songs for the Missing

"Lovely . . . explores the sweetness and pain of family life, the awkward glory of growing up. Everything Asian glows with delicacy, compassion, and wit."?Brian Morton, author of PEN/Faulkner Award finalist Starting Out in the Evening and Breakable You

"Wise, unsparing, poignant, devastating, funny: a remarkable novel."?Chuck Wachtel, author of PEN/Hemingway Citation winner Joe the Engineer and The Gates

"Funny, smart and affecting . . . takes on the heartbreak of being the less than ideal Korean American immigrant with a laugh. Sung J. Woo shows himself to be an astute satirist."?Alexander Chee, author of Edinburgh

"Sung J. Woo is my Featured Book of Color Pick of the Day. It tells the story of 12-year old David Kim who is a Korean immigrant who steps foot on American soil and instantly has his whole life turned upside down. Not only does he have to deal with his miserable mother and sister, but also his father who he hasn't seen in 5 years. Korean author, Woo offers the world a glimpse of the life of an immigrant through the eyes of multiple characters and should give the reader a real insight into a world they would otherwise not come into contact with."?Jeff Rivera, Galley Cat
"Cleverly concatenated stories about the experience of Korean immigrants make up Woo's loosely structured novel. The story initially concerns a brother and sister, Joon-a and In Sook Kim (aka David and Sue), revisiting Peddlers Town, a 'sad-sack of a strip mall' where a quarter of a century before their parents owned an intermittently successful gift store, which has since been torn down to make way for a Home Depot. After this brief opening we're whisked back into the past, to the time when their father set up shop, trying to become successful before sending for his wife back in Korea. David becomes one of the primary narrators, as he recounts with both humor and pathos his growing up and gradual Americanization. Along the way we meet other shop owners in Peddlers Town, including Mr. Hong, the only other Korean, who owns In the Bag, a luggage store, and Dmitri, owner of HiFi FoFum. Everyone's trying to make it, of course, not necessarily to strike it rich but to own a small piece of the elusive American Dream. Woo eventually shifts to a more neutral narrative voice, one that advances our understanding of characters who exist on the periphery of David's world. The Kims decide that to become more authentically American they should speak English, so they enroll in an evening ESL class, where they discover that the usually deferential Mrs. Kim is falling for her American instructor. The bemused tone shifts when an American detective puts out his shingle in Peddlers Town and then follows Mr. Kim, only to discover that on his shopping trips every Monday he's been cheating on his wife. A novel that both delights and instructs."?Kirkus Reviews

"Newly arrived in the States from Korea in the early 1980s, Dae Joon, 12, does not know his dad and does not want to. Father left five years ago to make a home for his family in New Jersey. Now Dae Joon ('David' in America) and his older sister must adapt to a new world, working after school in Dad’s Asian gift store in the shabby Peddlers Town mall, attending ESL classes with their embarrassing parents, and discovering secrets and betrayal. Told in sharp, immediate vignettes, mostly from the boy’s viewpoint, this debut novel captures the contemporary immigration struggle, but it is also an elemental family drama of fury and tenderness, affecting all the characters. Dae Joon’s mother cannot speak the language and remains angry that her husband left her behind so long. But what about Dae Joon’s loneliness? Woo also shows the ironic satisfactions that come with speaking a second language: the joy of insulting locals to their faces without their understanding. A great addition to the titles listed in Booklist’s 'Core Collection: The New Immigration Story.'"?Hazel Rochman, Booklist

"David Kim, formerly known as Dae Joon, has just turned 12 years old and moved to New Jersey from Korea. After five years of living with his mother and his older, moody sister, he must reconnect with a father he does not remember and get used to his American life, which consists of going to school and working at his parents' shop, East Meets West. In a series of interwoven short stories, Woo captures both the difficulty of transitioning from adolescence into adulthood and the additional challenges of making that transition in a new country. The author presents, through the boy's perspective, a chapter about an American acquaintance who experiments with wearing pantyhose under his clothes. Woo imbues the story, like others in the collection, with David's overall sense of confusion about this man's American ways. With a mix of humor and drama, Everything Asian makes a fine addition to recreational reading lists."?Sarah Krygier, Fairfield Civic Center Library, Fairfield, California, School Library Journal

"In this charming tale of family, community and the struggle for understanding, young Korean immigrant David Kim learns to acculturate to a n...

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  • Great book! Spread the word!
    From Amazon

    I thoroughly enjoyed 'Everything Asian'. Such great insight on the Korean-American experience! I thought the portrayal of each character in first-person was captured beautifully. As I read, I could see these 3-D characters come to life within my own journey as a Korean-American, and just anyone who has to deal with the inevitable changes in their lives, whether the age, race or sex.

  • Recommended
    From Amazon

    An enjoyable collection of stories, mostly about one family,that gives the reader a look into the lives of a newly emigrated Korean family.

  • Peak into other peoples life
    From Amazon

    As a white man married into an Asian family I thought this would be a great book to read and was not let down. Woo kept me turning the pages quickly and kept my interest. This book did bring me "down" a little due to what can be normal family issues, but the darkness seemed excessive. I was in hope that the ending would bring me out of the funk I was in, but it didn't. Things worked out for the family without totally breaking down, but it wasn't a rosey picture at the end.

  • Worth the time to read, laugh and savor
    From Amazon

    I thoroughly enjoyed Sung Woo's book. The world of young David in Everything Asian is a real delight to read. David's views on his new life in New Jersey are spot on for anyone who was not born in the U.S. and the other characters come to life in each chapter that is devoted to their own stories. I found the book to be lighthearted in many ways but at the same time, it dealt with some important passages in life. David's sense of humor and pathos is so palpable and real. I highly recommend spending the time to read Sung Woo's book. I don't think you will be disappointed.

  • an enjoyable story for all cultures
    From Amazon

    Bravo to Sung J. Woo on this entertaining novel! Being an avid fan of murder, mystery, and suspense, this is not the type book that I would typically choose to read. Occasionally I venture into a very different genre and, in this case, I am very happy I did. Everything Asian is an easy read. This young author exhibits great talent in weaving the complexities of the Kim's family dynamics in what appears on the surface to be a relatively mundane existence. I particularly enjoyed the way the relationship between brother and sister was depicted. The array of emotions and the unique bond shared between siblings proves to be a common thread of all cultures. Along with the differences among mankind comes a unique commonality - this is the message I took from this book. Another strong suit of this author is the way he interjects humor into his work. It's delightful. As the story progressed, I found myself developing an attachment to the characters, rooting for their success. One cannot help but grow fond of David. And despite his human frailties, the father eventually elicited my empathy in the end. Although this novel is about the trials and tribulations of an Asian family immigrating to America as seen through the eyes of a young boy, the story transcends cultural boundaries. I am truly looking forward to the release of the next book by Sung J. Woo.

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