01 Sep / Somebody’s Daughter by Marie Myung-Ok Lee + Author Interview [in Bloomsbury Review]
Ten Thousand Sorrows by Elizabeth Kim, A Single Square Picture by Katy Robinson, and The Language of Blood by Jane Jeong Trenka are just some of the available memoirs with the Asian transracial adoptee experience as their focus. Now for the first time comes a work of fiction from a major publisher with a Korean adoptee protagonist. Somebody’s Daughter, which debuted last week, is also the first adult title for Marie Lee, already the lauded author of four young adult books, including the critically-acclaimed Finding My Voice and its sequel Saying Goodbye.
What began as a year in Korea as a Fulbright fellow – “I sadly had to leave my husband behind practically at the altar,” Lee laughs – during which she recorded the oral histories of birthmothers who released their children to adoption, morphed into the lyrical Daughter. “Now I can’t look away from the fact that the adoptive family’s joy invariably involves the birthmother’s loss,” says Lee after her Korean experience.
Though Lee herself is not adopted, the novel intertwines the voices of Sarah Thorson, a Midwest adoptee who drops of out of the University of Minnesota to spend a summer studying in Korea, and Kyung-sook, her Korean birthmother who lives in a remote village selling salted shrimp. Both are conflicted, searching, lonely souls who long to find one another, but because of impossible circumstances are fated to stay apart. Lyrical, haunting, tragic yet hopeful, Daughter is a most promising adult debut.
The Bloomsbury Review: You’ve been highly successful in the young adult market. What prompted you to try adult fiction?
Marie Myung-Ok Lee: I don’t consider myself a ‘genre’ writer except for the genre of fiction. I just write whatever interests me, about whatever character’s voice captures my attention at any given time. That said, I think the whole ‘young adult’ appellation can be useful for marketing age-appropriateness, but it can also be quite limiting in that it sets up certain expectations, standards, and formulas. I enjoyed writing Somebody’s Daughter more or less already knowing it was going to be an adult book because for once I could write totally freely, without worries about language of subject matter (i.e. s-e-x).
Ironically, now that the book is done, authorities on YA literature, like the esteemed Michael Cart, think the book is perfect for the mature YA reader, so that’s kind of a comfortable place for me to be – in that interstitial place between young adult and adult. Similarly, it’s being taught in a course at Brown called ‘Sex, Race, and Love: The Interracial Family,’ and the young adults in the class seem to be relating to the book quite well. …[click here for more]
Readers: Young Adult, Adult