menu

The Magical Language of Others : A Memoir
by E. J. Koh




Overview -

The Magical Language of Others is a powerful and aching love story in letters, from mother to daughter. After living in America for over a decade, Eun Ji Koh's parents return to South Korea for work, leaving fifteen-year-old Eun Ji and her brother behind in California. Overnight, Eun Ji finds herself abandoned and adrift in a world made strange by her mother's absence. Her mother writes letters in Korean over the years seeking forgiveness and love--letters Eun Ji cannot fully understand until she finds them years later hidden in a box.

As Eun Ji translates the letters, she looks to history--her grandmother Jun's years as a lovesick wife in Daejeon, the loss and destruction her grandmother Kumiko witnessed during the Jeju Island Massacre--and to poetry, as well as her own lived experience to answer questions inside all of us. Where do the stories of our mothers and grandmothers end and ours begin? How do we find words--in Korean, Japanese, English, or any language--to articulate the profound ways that distance can shape love?

The Magical Language of Others weaves a profound tale of hard-won selfhood and our deep bonds to family, place, and language, introducing--in Eun Ji Koh--a singular, incandescent voice.

  Read Full Product Description
 
local_shippingFor Delivery
In Stock.
FREE Shipping for Club Members help
 
storeBuy Online Pickup At Store
search store by zipcode

 
 
New & Used Marketplace 34 copies from $7.96
 
 
 
 

More About The Magical Language of Others by E. J. Koh

 
 
 

Overview

The Magical Language of Others is a powerful and aching love story in letters, from mother to daughter. After living in America for over a decade, Eun Ji Koh's parents return to South Korea for work, leaving fifteen-year-old Eun Ji and her brother behind in California. Overnight, Eun Ji finds herself abandoned and adrift in a world made strange by her mother's absence. Her mother writes letters in Korean over the years seeking forgiveness and love--letters Eun Ji cannot fully understand until she finds them years later hidden in a box.

As Eun Ji translates the letters, she looks to history--her grandmother Jun's years as a lovesick wife in Daejeon, the loss and destruction her grandmother Kumiko witnessed during the Jeju Island Massacre--and to poetry, as well as her own lived experience to answer questions inside all of us. Where do the stories of our mothers and grandmothers end and ours begin? How do we find words--in Korean, Japanese, English, or any language--to articulate the profound ways that distance can shape love?

The Magical Language of Others weaves a profound tale of hard-won selfhood and our deep bonds to family, place, and language, introducing--in Eun Ji Koh--a singular, incandescent voice.


 

Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781947793385
  • ISBN-10: 1947793381
  • Publisher: Tin House Books
  • Publish Date: January 2020
  • Page Count: 203
  • Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.8 pounds


Related Categories

 

BookPage Reviews

The Magical Language of Others

An engaging, literary take on language and its role in the diaspora of a scattered family, The Magical Language of Others speaks from—and to—the heart. 

When E.J. Koh is 14, her father lands a lucrative three-year contract with a Korean company in Seoul. Her mother goes with him to Korea, leaving Koh and her older brother essentially on their own in California. Their mother writes letters in Korean, her native language, dotted with attempts at English. Koh has yet to learn Korean and cannot write back. She can only blur and stain the indecipherable text with her tears.

The distance between mother and daughter grows. Visits to and from her parents are sparse and awkward. Her father, who seems to know only how to work hard, keeps renewing his company contract until, seven years later, he accepts that his American daughter can have no future in Korea, and he and Koh’s mother return. 

By then, Koh has learned her father’s native language, Japanese, while studying at a school in Japan, a country that once despised the Korean people. She learns about her grandmother’s traumatic years in Japan during World War II, adding another layer to her understanding of language and her complex family history.

Throughout this slim memoir, fraught with differences in culture, custom and, most of all, language, runs a thread of familial love and pain, a back-and-forth that, given Koh’s eloquence, needs no translation. It will take her years to translate her mother’s letters and decide if she was abandoned or if, as she tells a fellow resident at a New Hampshire artist colony, “my parents set me free. They gave me my freedom.”

 

BAM Customer Reviews