01 Sep / Aloft by Chang-rae Lee + Author Interview [in Bloomsbury Review]
Speaking in superlatives about Chang-rae Lee or his work seems somewhat clichéd these days. All three of his novels, Native Speaker, A Gesture Life, and his latest, Aloft, have been so lavishly lauded that coming up with yet another accolade seems nothing less than redundant. Suffice it to say that Lee is surely one of our best writers ever, regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, economic background, or social status. Any way you look at it, the result is the same: He is the real thing.
Lee admits that he was always writing little stories, even as he always wanted to write books. Still, he wasn’t quite ready to declare himself a writer to the outside world until after a year of working as an equities analyst at a New York investment bank. Consciously or not, Lee’s first career decision seems to have been struck as if in answer to achieving what might be considered the typical immigrant dream.
Born in Seoul, Korea, Lee arrived in the United States in 1968 at age three with his mother and his sister to join Lee’s father in Pittsburgh, where the elder Lee was completing his residency in psychiatry. Less than a year later, the family moved to New York City’s Upper West Side before eventually settling in the affluent suburbs of Westchester County, north of Manhattan. Like many immigrant Asian Americans, the Lees followed the all-too-familiar search for better and even still better schools for the sake of the children.
As a result, Lee had an extremely privileged education. From Westchester he went to the exclusive Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire and then landed at Yale University, graduating with an English degree, which was fitting with his love of books. When he went to work directly after graduation on Wall Street, ensconced in a financially promising career, he appeared to be the epitome of the immigrant success story. …[click here for more]
Author interview: The Bloomsbury Review, September/October 2004