Remember last time I shared my serendipitous encounter with new novels on the morning 7 train? One book on the list is Korean American author Min Jin Lee’s best-selling novel Pachinko. Well, the news has just been released that the novel is going to be adapted into TV series!
Pachinko was a 2017 finalist for the National Book Award for fiction and was named by The New York Times as one of the 10 Best Books of 2017. Six companies fought for the rights, however in the end, the king of technology－Apple－won, and, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the show will be among the most expensive in the TV series history, with a budget similar to Netflix’s The Crown.
Image via Parnassus Musing
Set in the early 20th century, Min Jin Lee describes Sunja, the poor but lovely Korean daughter of the fisherman, who, without warning, falls in love with a rich married man. When she finds out she’s pregnant and the man is married, she cuts off the relationship without hesitation, and moves to Japan with a sick but kindly diplomat. The story focuses on the tough and bloodied history of Korean immigrants in Japan.
Soo Hugh, the Korean American showrunner and screenwriter of The Terror, will take the lead on the screen adaptation, serving as the program leader and producer. The production company will be Media Res, established by Prometheus (2012)’s producer Michael Ellenberg. The TV series will be presented in Korean, Japanese, and English.
I’m glad to see more representations about Asian American communities and their histories, lives, and identities. Will the show be a good adaptation to the original work? Let’s wait and see!
Read articles regarding upcoming Asian American representation:
In 2001, Ann Patchett’s fourth novel Bel Canto amazed readers all around the world. It’s a book about music, love, and politics, set in a South America.The story begins at a birthday party thrown at the vice presidential home in honor of Katsumi Hosokawa, a visiting chairman of a large Japanese company and an opera enthusiast. A famous American soprano Roxane Coss is also invited to perform as the highlight of the night. However, the opera-embroidered night is broken by a break-in by terrorists who take the entire party hostage.
Ann Patchett and the cover of Bel Canto | Image via ProProfs
The appealing plot and Patchett’s skill at describing music make the novel successful. It was awarded both the Orange Prize for Fiction and PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. It was placed on several top book lists, including Amazon’s Best Books of the Year (2001). It was also adapted into an opera in 2015.
Now, the film adaption is going to amaze us again. Directed by Paul Weitz, the movie gathers international cast members including Julianne Moore, Ken Watanabe, Demian Bichir, and Ryo Kase. (See the full list of cast here)
Julianne Moore, Ken Watanabe, and Demian Bichir | Image via Variety
Movie Poster | Image via IMDb
The trailer moves me with the last scene when Roxanne (Julianne Moore) steps onto the balcony and is ready to sing to the public. I think that will be a powerful moment in which music serves as a language of love and forgiveness.
Patchett’s novel is beloved, but it seems like Weitz won’t be precious about making changes, since even in the relatively short space of the trailer, there’s already one major deviation from the original story. Around 40 seconds in, one of the young terrorists seems to shoot a man, presumably the opera singer’s accompanist, in the chest as he comes in the door; in the novel, the character simply dies from lack of insulin, having failed to disclose that he was a diabetic.
That may seem like a minor detail, but it’s significant, because the accompanist’s death is a major turning point in the story, and if the change is as it appears, then Weitz has turned a tragicomic moment into a purely tragic one. Whether that’s a sign of major tonal changes to the story as a whole or a simple tweak to the plot remains to be seen.
I’m sure this will a fantastic film adaption. See you in the movie theatre on September 14th!
Do you like to read Asian American writing? If you do, YES, you are with me now! If you don’t, OK, this booklist will totally change your vision and life. Three red-letter Asian American writers and their books: Ruth Ozeki’s My Year of Meats, Karen Tei Yamashita’s Tropic of Orange, and Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life.
My Year of Meats byRuth Ozeki
Images via Smith College and Goodreads
Ruth Ozeki is a Canadian-American novelist, filmmaker, and Zen priest. Before her writing career, Ozeki had worked in the TV industry for ten years and produced a documentary Halving the Bones (1995). This working experience as a TV producer/documentarian nourishes her writing style. When reading her novels it can feel as though you are watching a movie or TV series because the way some cinematic techniques, such as montage or multi-narratives, have influenced her reflects on page . Topics of her writing ranges from race, gender, environmental crisis, to the aesthetics of Zen.
My Year of Meats, published in 1998, is Ozkei’s second novel. The story starts with Jane Takagi-Little, a Japanese-American documentarian, who works for BEEF-EX, a Texas-based meat lobbying firm. Her duty is to produce My American Wife! which is a TV reality show featuring American housewives and her authentic American life, food, and belief. Jane is pressured by the company to promote the advantage of eating beef as a wholesome American lifestyle. However, Jane gradually realizes the unspeakable truth hidden within the meat industry. On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, a Japanese housewife Akiko is watching My American Wife! in her Tokyo apartment. She is carefully jotting down the beef diner recipe the TV show introduces because that will also be served as the diner for her husband John Ueno, the executive of BEEF-EX. Akiko has been struggling with infertility however is pressured by John to eat more beef because John believes that “Beef is the Best” and beef can bring them children symboling a traditional American family.
Tropic of Orange byKaren Tei Yamashita
Images via Star Tribune and Amazon
Karen Tei Yamashita is a Japanese-American writer who is a Professor of Literature at University of California, Santa Cruz. Her writing contains huge elements of magical realism and transnational vision. Yamashita’s novels pays attention to the phenomena of polyglot and multicultural communities in an increasingly globalized age. Reading her novels, you may feel like you are cruising a world without boundaries: of race, gender, time, and space.
Published in 1997, Tropic of Orange rewrites how a novel can smash human concepts of geographical, cultural, and temporal limits. The book is set in Los Angels and Mexico with a group of diverse ethnic people dominating each mysterious life. The story covers the span of seven days, with each chapter focusing on specific days and characters. We have Emi, a Japanese-American TV executive, and her lover Gabriel Balboa, a Latino journalist, chasing news in LA. They have a reliable but mysterious source of news: Buzzworm, an African American who roams LA streets offering advice. Gabriel owns a home in Mexico in which a special orange falls from a tree and is picked up by the mystical character Arcangel who carries the fruit across the U.S.- Mexico border and the Tropic of Cancer. With the development of the narratives, we see different lines of story weaving into a unexpected web.
A Little Life byHanya Yanagihara
Images via The Cut and Amazon
Born in Hawaii, Hanya Yanagihara is considered one of the most talented writers in the publishing industry in the last decade. Working as a chief editor of T: The New York Times Style Magazine, the forty-year-old Yanagihara, without any training in fictional writing, amazed the industry in 2013 with the publication of her first novel The People in the Trees. The novel is based on the real-life case of the virologist Daniel Carleton Gajdusek, was praised as one of the best novels of 2013. Though Yanagihara spent sixteen years completing The People in the Trees, she established A Little Life, a novel with the same depth and effort as the first one, in eighteen months. A Little Life was published in 2015 and received a volcano of favorable reviews.
Praised as the greatest gay novel by The Atlantic, the novel portrays the friendship spanning over thirty years of four men who met each other in college, and their homo/heterosexual romance, lost, and anger they experience throughout their lives. Malcolm is an architect; JB is a portrait artist; Willem is an actor; Jude is a lawyer. The story begins with Willem and Jude, both of whom graduated from distinguished university, co-rent a small apartment in New York City: Malcolm and JB, born in rich families, have huge passion for art but feel uncertain about the future. Willem is a poor guy from a farm in the midwest, insisting in acting life in theatre－he feels responsible for these old friends, especially for Jude; Jude is the most successful one among the four－he has a great career as a attorney but, as if his mysterious crippled leg, Jude himself is mysterious too: no one knows his past. With deeper description of Jude, Yanagihara performs how the past tangles with not only Jude’s life but the other three characters.
Featured Image via Ruth Ozeki, Writing like an Asian, and The Cut
Congratulations to Canadian novelist Michael Ondaatje, whose book The English Patient won the Golden Man Booker Prize on July 8th! For any book-lover, it goes without saying that the Man Booker Prize is one of the most important awards for novels written in English. The Golden Man Booker Prize aims to re-award the most distinguished Booker Prize-winning works in the past fifty years.
Ondaatje’s The English Patient won the prize in 1992 for its great portrayal of the society and mentality during World War II. Defeating the other four works nominated, The English Patient got 9,000 votes and became the winner of The Golden Booker Prize. According to the judge Kamila Shamsie, the novel “moves seamlessly between the epic and the intimate–one moment you’re in looking at the vast sweep of the desert, and the next moment watching a nurse place a piece of plum in a patient’s mouth…It’s intricately and rewardingly structured, beautifully written, with great humanity written into every page.”
“There are betrayals in war that are childlike compared with our human betrayals during peace. The new lovers enter the habits of the other. Things are smashed, revealed in a new light. This is done with nervous or tender sentences, although the heart is an organ of fire.”
Image via Amazon
The novel takes place during World War II. The title of the novel refers the mystery pivoting around the leading character—an injured and amnesiac pilot of a bomber. Severely burned in the accident and then carefully cared for by Hana, a young Canadian army nurse, “the English patient,” (what everyone in the hospital calls him due to his accent,) is searching for his memories. The more pieces of past he collects, the more oscillating the narrative becomes—by this I mean, Ondaatje in this work intellectually explores the boundaries: of time, space, morality, text, gender, and race. Though many people would read this novel as a romance, it is amazing to examine how Ondaatje deals with the issue of “peace”— both inside and outside.
In 1999, author Laurie Halse Anderson released a young adult novel entitled Speak that would result in widespread conversation and a shift in the way we view and talk about sexual assault.
The novel spread quickly and rooted itself deep, still being something that is read and taught in classrooms across the globe today, even resulting in a movie adaptation starring Kristen Stewart.
**Speak Spoilers Ahead**
Speak is written through the perspective of high school freshman Melinda Sordino as she struggles with finding her place after being completely ostracized and isolated by her peers for calling the police during a party. Melinda begins shutting down more and more, solely expressing herself through art projects; she hardly verbalizes anything aloud at all. What her classmates and friends fail to understand is that Melinda was raped by popular senior Andy Evans at the party and, in a moment of panic and disembodiment, called the police. By the time the police arrived, Melinda found herself in a state of dissociation, unable to say what had occured. She buries the assault deep inside of her, confiding in no one.
Speak is brutal, honest, and so, heartbreakingly real in the way it describes sexual assault it sparked a fire of conversation revolving around a side of sexual assault and rape culture that hadn’t yet been seen in the media. I remember first reading the book when I was about eleven years-old and the impact and mark it imprinted on me; it’s a novel I’ve never been able to forget.
Laurie Halse Anderson was inspired by her own sexual assault to write the novel, hoping to incite some sort of change. Now twenty years later and frustrated with the fact that, although the conversation regarding rape culture has changed, the culture itself is still very much problematic, Anderson has penned a new memoir centered around the subject.
The memoir is called Shoutand is a free-verse work of nonfiction detailed Anderson’s own rape, her fight to overcome the emotional aftermath, and her journey into finding some sort of healing. Anderson recently spoke out about the upcoming memoir, saying:
I lost my voice for a very long time after I was raped. I lost myself, too. Shout is a poetry tapestry that shares the darkness of my silent years and shows how writing helped me speak up. Shout is a declaration of war against rape culture and a celebration of survival.
And, in a time of sexual assault being so prevalent it seems like there’s a new case appearing in the media daily, this memoir can’t come soon enough.The way we speak about rape and assault has shifted and progressed so much that it can be easy to feel like society, as a whole, has finally progressed past it. But believing that would be ignoring that disgusting-but-real truth that one woman is assaulted in America every 98 seconds. Just because sexual assault is being talked about widely and predators like Harvey Weinstein have been brought down, doesn’t mean we can grow complacent.
According to RAINN1 out of every six American women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (this statistic increases to 1 out of four women while attending college in the United States). And 94% of sexual assault victims will suffer from PTSD.
Sexual assault is so prevalent within our society I don’t think I, personally, know any women who haven’t been sexually assaulted or raped. It’s vital that we keep speaking up about it and that we listen when others rise to share their stories. It’s so weighing for women to be living in a constant state of fear, of never walking home alone at night, of “please stop following me”, of “text me when you get home safe” because we all know the reality of danger constantly hanging over our heads.
There can no longer be a stigma surrounding this because our well-being, and the well-being of our sisters, is always at risk. Laura Halse Anderson is doing such brave, powerful, revolutionary work (work that she’s been doing for the past two decades).You can’t miss out on this book. Share it with your family and friends. Keep standing up and speaking out.
And if you’re one of the many of us who’ve been victims of sexual violence, understand that it is no way your fault. You are not alone because you are standing alongside all of us, arm in arm.