01 Sep / Fox Girl by Nora Okja Keller + Author Interview [in Bloomsbury Review]
Fox Girl takes readers back to post-Korean War “America Town,” where the abandoned, racially mixed children of U.S. soldiers fought for bare survival and Korean women continued to service occupying GIs in order to put food on their shabby dinner tables. At the center is Hyun Jin, the eponymous “fox girl,” a model student from a seemingly loving home. Hyun Jin is thrown out in the streets and forced to create a makeshift family with her childhood best friend, Sookie, who becomes a child prostitute, and Lobetto, a neighborhood pimp who is also just a young boy waiting in vain for his American father to claim him.
The Dual Lives of Nora Okja Keller: An Interview
After four or five conversations on the phone and numerous e-mails, Nora Okja Keller and I finally recognize one another. “Oh, my goodness, I have your fingerprints in my house!” she laughs gleefully. “No wonder your voice sounds so familiar!”
More than a decade ago, Keller and I took the same modern literature seminar at the University of California, Santa Cruz, “the only time I’ve lived outside of Hawai’i [since moving there as a five-year-old in 1969],” she remembers. As we were all poor graduate students at the time, I picked up copies of the latest assigned title, Maxine Hong Kingston’s Tripmaster Monkey, at a discount bookstore over the hill in Palo Alto. “Of course, I still have the book,” says Keller. “Maxine is one of my heroes.”
My memory is suddenly crystal-clear, and I can see Keller sitting at the long table the day that Kingston came to talk to the class. Keller was three seats away, her thick wavy hair pulled back low in a single ponytail, wearing a red sweater with horizontal dark stripes across the chest. “I wore that sweater all the time,” she recalls. “I don’t have it anymore, but I still have the ponytail.” …[click here for more]