07 Dec / I Want to Die but I Want to Eat Tteokbokki by Baek Sehee, translated by Anton Hur [in Booklist]
The cover boasts a recommendation from global phenom BTS’s leader RM. The PR materials tout its “runaway best-seller” status in its native South Korea, where mental illness remains stigmatized in a country with one of the world’s highest suicide rates.
As a twentysomething social media director in publishing, Baek Sehee “seem[ed] totally fine on the outside but [was] rotting on the inside.” Diagnosed with dysthymia – “a state of constant, light depression” – Baek sought therapy. She distills her experiences into 12 chapters of transcribed sessions with her psychiatrist, augmented with reflections and revelations about her damaging relationships with family, lovers, colleagues, friends, her impossible standards of beauty, her judgmental self-esteem.
Near book’s end, her psychiatrist adds an affecting chapter about “ordinary, incomplete” people. Tteokbokki, by the way, is a Korean comfort food comprised of rice cakes and hot sauce. With candor and humor, Baek offers readers and herself resonant moments of empathy: “my hope is for people to read this book and think, I wasn’t the only person who felt like this.”
Originally published in 2018, this arrives in the U.S. sensitively English-enabled by favored translator Anton Hur.
Published: 2018 (Korea), 2022 (United States)