Tag Archives: Min Jin Lee

Book Club Reflection: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

6 Feb

My book club met recently to talk about a book I loved, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. Unfortunately, we had some members who seemed more interested in talking to each other than they were in talking about the book. Those of us who pushed on were able to have some semblance of a discussion, but it was much shorter so this will be a smaller post.

One member brought some Korean wedding ducks a friend of hers had given as a gift. The friend was living in Korea and sent these wooden ducks to our member. Ducks mate for life so the wish was for our member’s marriage to be the same. It was fun to see a bit of the book’s culture join us for the meeting.

A few members commented on the speech in the back of our books that Caroline Kennedy gave. She calls the book a ‘fun summer read’ and many felt that was off base. We think of summer reads as light and short novels without much depth. This book was the complete opposite, so we wondered if the remark was supposed to be read sarcastically.

Many of us didn’t realize it was so hard to be Korean in Japan. Because it’s an island, Japan has historically had a very closed culture and it was not very welcoming to foreigners who came for any reason.

I was surprised how many people showed up to the meeting with a hand-written family tree! It was an easy way to keep track of the names. (I was one of two without one.) Some people felt this was a flaw in the book and that there were some characters who were unnecessary and that the book could have been shortened a bit by removing them.

Many were shocked at the prevalence of sex in the book. Hana was a clear example of this, but Noa’s Japanese girlfriend was highly sexualized as well. We were most surprised by the quick scene in the park when Goro’s wife (I may have this wrong) ran into a prostitute. We weren’t expecting the prevalence of sex, though we agreed nothing was graphic. It was very noticeable in a culture that was otherwise so formal.

This book tells us over and over that a woman’s lot is to suffer. Honestly, we didn’t feel that things had changed too much from the time this book was set until now. Two or three generations ago in the US, women had the same expectations out of life as Sunja did on a small island in Korea. The suffering of a woman seems to be almost universal.

None of us had heard of Pachinko before and we imagined it like upside-down Plinko. In the end, every man’s job revolved around it and it was very central to their stories. It is a game of chance and it’s always rigged just a bit. But the player remains hopeful that they can win, even knowing that they probably won’t. We believed it was a good metaphor for life.

Noa was a great character and very dynamic throughout the book. One thing that seemed inconsistent with him was that he was so smart, but he couldn’t figure out that Hansu was his father. It seems if someone’s paying for your school and living expenses, you might expect they’re more than a friend of your mother. It was understandably hard for him when he did figure this out and his subsequent death was tragic. We were bothered by how little attention seemed to be paid to Noa’s death. It was so sudden and tragic but we’re spared the suffering it caused and the book moves on.

Hansu makes many appearances in the book to come to Sunja’s rescue. We never get a solid answer on how he came to be married to a rich Japanese woman besides his good looks. We felt there might have been something more buried there. We did see that he had a bad side. Even though he risked a lot to help Sunja, we still see him hitting a prostitute and being controlling at other times. He’s a very unpredictable character and was someone we enjoyed seeing come up periodically.

Most of us adored this book and I’m so glad I was able to hear Lee speak about it. I hope our next book is as engaging! Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Challenge Update, January 2020

3 Feb

I’m finally caught up on reviews! Reading a few long books really helps with that. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in January:

Pachinko // Min Jin Lee (5/5)
American by Day // Derek B. Miller (4/5)
Colombiano // Rusy Young (4/5)
The Extra Ordinary Life of Frank Derrick, Age 81 // J.B. Morrison (3/5)

It feels so good to be near caught up! I expect I will be again next week.

When Are You Reading? Challenge

2/12
I’m off to a good start so far. The four books I’ve read so far represent two different eras and I’ve got another one in the works. I’ve ticked off 1940-1959, and 2000-Present. So far, so good!

Goodreads Challenge

4/55
So far, so good! I’m right about on track. If I’d been reading shorter books, I might be ahead. Maybe a few shorter ones coming soon will help with that.

Book of the Month

I’m so in love with Pachinko this month. I’ll be doing a book club reflection on it soon with even more love to share. This book swept me away and kept me engaged for its entire length which was a gift. I loved it so much and I hope I can convince everyone I meet to read it as well!

Added to my TBR

I’m holding steady at 65. Though I think I’ll have a book club blow-up coming soon.

  • Any Way the Wind Blows / Rainbow Rowell. I know I still need to read the second book in this series, but I’m so sure I’ll love it that I’ve added the third.
  • What the Eyes Don’t See / Mona Hanna Attisha. This is a book club pick and one I’m curious to read. It focuses on the Flint, Michigan water crisis. I live about 40 minutes from Flint and this ongoing crisis is one I’m interested to learn more about.

Personal Challenge

I’m gearing up again to track personal goals here. This is a great way to keep me accountable and to tell you about me outside the wide world of books.

  • Triathlon Age Group National Championships: I’ve registered for the race and booked my hotel room. This is my focus race for the year. I’ve signed up for six triathlons this summer and this will be the fourth. The other two are just bonus fun.
  • Submit my novel: I’ve submitted to three agents so far and heard back from one. I’ll talk more about this in my writing check-in.

I’m keeping it basic this year for personal goals. Anything else would be a bonus. Maybe I’ll add more later, but this is good for now.

How are your challenges going so far? I hope you’re off to a good start. If you love historical fiction, give some thought to my challenge for this year, it’s fun!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Review: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (5/5)

20 Jan

I wish I’d read this book before I heard Lee speak at the Midwest Literary Walk. Now that I’ve finished it, I want to ask her so many questions. And I think I would have understood her talk about the book better. I’ll have to try harder to read the books in advance for 2020.

Cover image via Goodreads

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Summary from Goodreads:

In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant–and that her lover is married–she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son’s powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations.

I didn’t expect a 600-page book to read so quickly. I adored every page of this book and the amazing story of Sunja. I loved jumping from generation to generation, person to person, and story to story as we saw how the Koreans in Japan were treated and how they were able to overcome their circumstances as best as possible to make a life. It’s incredible to think about how they made it through with the deck stacked against them. The drama was just enough to keep me going when the page count was keeping me down.

The characters were amazing. I was always impressed when the new characters were so different from the ones whose stories faded. I loved hearing about Soloman as much as I liked hearing about Kyunghee. The lives these people lived were incredibly deep and their personalities were well illustrated. I believed they were all real.

Noa was my favorite character. His life was so complex and he had a lot to think about and gave the reader a lot to ponder. He is so smart and I think that drove him to overthink everything that happened to him and around him. Like a true literature major, he had to analyze things and search for meaning in his life so he could figure out a purpose. When he tried to run away, it broke my heart. I adored him so much. It was great that we saw him grow up through the novel as well. We really see his whole life through.

I related to the women in this book. It often feels like a woman has to bear her sadness with a stoic face and I think that’s a truth universally and for much of history. Women have to make due very often and sometimes under incredible circumstances. I’ve seen that in my life and I saw it in this book.

Me and Min Jin Lee

Sunja and Kyunghee’s industrious business work was my favorite part of the book. They were forced to work so hard to care for their families and they were so resilient to anything that threatened to keep them down. They were so brave and admirable and I loved reading about how determined they were to make good lives for Noa and Muzasu.

The plotline with Yoseb was hard for me to read. He changed so much after his accident that I almost didn’t believe it. Seeing him so angry and Kyunghee kowtowed was hard. When he would come up, I kept hoping the narrating character would get away from him as fast as possible.

Familial love and devotion are huge themes in this book. Sunja goes to amazing lengths to protect Noa from the truth and raise him as a Korean son. She’s thwarted many times along the way but tries her hardest to do what is right. Mozasu’s love for Soloman is a good parallel. He gives his son everything possible in his childhood but can’t protect him for everything which comes back to bite him.

Writer’s Takeaway: Lee does a great job of keeping a story burning. Her big revelations and plot points are far enough apart to keep you on the edge of your seat without being overwhelmed and balancing a slow plot with deep emotional connection. And nothing was predictable; bad things kept happening to characters I loved. That made it feel very real.

An amazing book and I’d recommend it to anyone. Five out of Five Stars.

This book counts for the 1940-1959 time period of the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Review of Pachinko by Min Jin Lee | The Book Stop
Review: Pachinko | The Literary Elephant
A deeply moving story of family and love: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee | Ayunda Bhuwana
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee | The Next Book on the Shelf

WWW Wednesday, 8-January-2020

8 Jan

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I’m moving forward steadily with Wild Ink by Victoria Hanley but no major jumps. I like having one book on the craft of writing going so I’ll keep pushing forward with this one to keep me motivated to write and submit.
My buddy-reader and I are having dinner tonight to talk about the next chunk of The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. I’m excited to move forward with this one again, I’m really enjoying it and it’s killing me to keep stopping before I find out what’s happened.
I’ve made better progress with Colombiano by Rusty Young than I thought I would. This is a long one to be sure and it will stay on this list for a long time. It’s given me goosebumps a few times already but I like where it’s going and I think Young has created a great character with Pedro.
I ran around the library on Saturday looking for my next book and finally decided on American by Day by Derek B. Miller. I adored Norwegian by Night and I’m excited to revisit Sigrid for a new adventure. I’m hoping to speed through this one as I’m excited for some book club selections and interlibrary loans!

Recently finished: I just adored Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. I kept staying up late and ignoring responsibilities and social obligations to read this wonderful novel. I’m so glad I got to hear Lee speak last year because having her conversation in my head when I was reading this was incredible and I wish I could hear her speak again because I would get more out of the conversation. Five out of Five Stars, a great way to start 2020!

Reading Next: I’m still planning on Sarah’s Quilt by Nancy E. Turner for an audiobook but it might be a while until I get there.
I put in an interlibrary loan request for The Running Man by Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King). This was recommended to me years ago and I’ve put it off because it needed an ILL but I’m still working to catch up on my reading list and this will be a great next step.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 1-January-2020 (Happy New Year!)

1 Jan

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: A lot of unusual lunches last week so I’m still making slow progress with Wild Ink by Victoria Hanley. I’ll be fine taking this one through the new year.
I’m still in love with Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. I’m picking it up every second I get because I’m just adoring every second of it. I didn’t know it was possible to make a 600-page book move so fast but wow. I’m really in awe.
Nothing further with my buddy read of The Dutch House by Ann Patchett yet. We’re meeting next week to talk so more to come soon.
I had yet another change of plans for my audiobook. I was offered a free audiobook for review of Colombiano by Rusty Young and downloaded it to my phone, figuring I’d get to it eventually. I didn’t realize how long the book was. At almost 700 pages, the file size is slowing down my phone! I’m deleting the files as I go (there are 164) to hopefully give my phone some more battery life.

Recently finished: I flew through Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys which was welcome with so many other long books on the go. I liked my first Sepetys book first but this was still enjoyable. It will be a while before I get to a review just because I’m so backlogged but I look forward to putting more thought into how this book made me feel.

A few book reviews to round out the year! On Monday I reviewed The Maximum Security Book Club by Mikita Brottman. I enjoyed the book a lot and appreciated Brottman’s focus on the men instead of the books. I gave it Four out of Five Stars.
I also reviewed The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. I absolutely adored this book. Honestly, I wasn’t prepared for something I would enjoy that much. I was just looking to fulfill a time period for my reading challenge. This was a welcome surprise and I gave it a full Five out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: It almost seems silly, but I’m going to keep saying I plan to listen to Sarah’s Quilt by Nancy E. Turner next. I’m in the middle of so many books right now that it almost feels like bad luck to guess what I’ll finish first but I always seem to move quickly on audio so I’ll put my bets here.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 25-December-2019 (Merry Christmas!)

25 Dec

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I’ll continue to move through Wild Ink by Victoria Hanley at my slow pace. I’m getting some good advice as I go but nothing earth-shattering so far.
I’m adoring Pachinko by Min Jin Lee and I’m getting as much as possible in between sections of The Dutch House. This is a book club pick for me and I’m getting a little nervous about finishing it in time. I’m not going to complain about the length, though, because I’m adoring it so much.
I finished the second part of The Dutch House by Ann Patchett for my buddy read. We’re doing four sections and we already met to talk about the first part. We’ll meet in early January to discuss the second part. It’s so tempting to speed ahead!
Change of plans for my audiobook. I had a long-term hold on Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys that came in unexpectedly. I started it and should finish it this week; it’s a rather short one. I’m not liking it as much as the last Sepetys book I read, but I still like it.

Recently finished: I wrapped up Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward on audio. It was good, but I didn’t connect with it as much as I’d hoped to. The language was beautiful but I kept thinking about what everything in the book could mean symbolically and it kept me from enjoying the story. I gave it Three out of Five Stars.

A few more book reviews are done! I got a review of Derek Palacio’s The Mortifications posted last week. I liked the book enough, but wasn’t blown away by it. I gave it Three out of Five Stars.
I also reviewed Not Without My Daughter by Betty Mahmoody this week. Again, I liked it, but it came off as very biased and I couldn’t connect with it. Another Three out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I still think I’ll listen to Sarah’s Quilt by Nancy E. Turner next. This might be my first book for the 2020 When Are You Reading? Challenge (more to come on that soon!). I don’t have any more books waiting to come in so this should be a safe bet.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 18-December-2019

18 Dec

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I keep trucking through Wild Ink by Victoria Hanley. This is about the pace I thought I’d read this book so I’m not upset it’s taking this long. I like the steady drip of YA writing advice and I think it’s helping me keep my books in mind.
I’ve been bouncing back and forth between Pachinko by Min Jin Lee and The Dutch House. I’m loving Pachinko and I know it’s going to be a slow burn. The characters and the setting are wonderful so far and I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of this epic unfolds.
Today is the first buddy-read meeting I have for The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. We read the first five chapters and are having dinner tonight to talk about it. It’s fun to read a book this way with a close friend. I hope we can do more of these in the future.
I should finish Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward this week. Audiobooks going quickly for me now with my commute. I’m still unsure how to feel about this one. The writing is really good and the plot is engaging, but I’m not connecting with it for some reason. I’ll see how it’s going next week.

Recently finished: No books finished this week, but I think that will change next week with how fast I get through audio right now. Stay tuned.

I was able to post three book reviews since last week! I first shared my thoughts on Caveat Emptor by Ruth Downie. I adore this series and the characters in it. I can’t wait to get to the next one soon. Four out of Five Stars.
I also posted my review for My Drunk Kitchen by Hannah Hart. I had some issues with this book, honestly. I think I had too high of expectations because I adore Hannah’s YouTube channel so much. Three out of Five Stars.
I also posted a review for Eastbound from Flagstaff by Annette Valentine. This was my first ARC in a while and I enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it. I’m hopefully going to do an interview with the author in the coming weeks so stay tuned for that. I gave the book Three out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I plan to pick up Sarah’s Quilt by Nancy E. Turner still. I think this will be a good audiobook to wrap up the year. Reading about a quilt sounds nice when it’s so cold outside.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 11-December-2019

11 Dec

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I’ve made good progress with Wild Ink by Victoria Hanley. I realized I get an hour for lunch instead of 30 minutes so I’m spending more time reading each day and it’s been really fun. I like using the time in the middle of the day for myself.
I’m adoring Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. I can already tell it’s a lovely slow burn that I’ll be happy to be going through for the next few months. With how long it is, I think it will be a close one to have it finished by January.
Part of the reason it will be tight to have it finished in time is that I’m doing a Buddy Read with a good friend of mine for The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. She and I were supposed to see Patchett speak in October but I ended up giving her the wrong date and she wasn’t available on the right one. Doh! I bought her a copy of the book and we’re going to read it in four chunks and discuss it throughout.
I’ve just started Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. I’m doing quick work on audiobooks lately so I’m optimistic that this one will be finished very quickly!

Recently finished: I absolutely flew through The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. Montey was an amazing example of character voice and the plot was so fun that I was making time to listen to it in even the smallest chunks so I could get further and further through the story. I haven’t had that much fun with a book in a while and it was a very welcome break.

Now that I’m writing real blog posts again, I have at least one book review posted for you all! I reviewed Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins on Monday. I have a lot more reviews to catch up on so expect an outpouring of those over the next few weeks.

Reading Next: It’s been a while since I started the series, but I think my next book would be Sarah’s Quilt by Nancy E. Turner. This is a fun frontier series that is loosely based on a relative of the author. I think I’ll need an audiobook next so this seems the way to go.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 4-December-2019

4 Dec

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I’m back to Wild Ink by Victoria Hanley now that my vacation is over and I’m reading at lunch again. Maybe this will keep me inspired to submit my first book and keep working on my second? Maybe? I’m hoping it has some unique advice about writing for a YA audience. I’ve been missing that reading so many of these books on craft close to each other.
I started my January book club selection, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. It’s a nice long one so I had to start early! I heard Lee speak at the Midwest Literary Walk this year and my copy is signed! Exciting.
I also started in on The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. I’m excited to wrap up my reading challenge with this one! It’s always nice to get more YA reading in, too!

Recently finished: I finished Not Without my Daughter by Betty Mahmoody on the plane home from California. It was terrifying and inspiring at the same time. I hope to watch the movie soon so I can compare the two while it’s still fresh in my mind.
I finished The Maximum Security Book Club by Mikita Brottman once I started driving to and from work again. This made me look at convicts differently and see them the way the system looks at them. I hear a lot about prison ministries and other programs where volunteers go into prisons and I wonder if I’d be a fit for something like that. I also wonder if I have a skill worth knowing for someone in prison.

Reading Next: My next audiobook is a book club selection, Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. I have until January to listen to it so I’m not really concerned about getting through it before I need it finished.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Midwest Literary Walk 2019

14 May

I’m happy to say I was able to return to the Midwest Literary Walk for 2019. We had a great line up of authors this year. In addition to my friend Amy, we each brought a friend so there were a total of four of us walking and enjoying the books.

Me and Min Jin Lee

The first author was the one I ended up enjoying the most, Min Jin Lee. She’s the author of Pachinko, which two years after publication is became an NYT bestseller in paperback. It took Lee 30 years to write this book. She put it away for years because her first draft was ‘long and bad.’ The idea originally came in 1989 when she attended a lecture about Koreans in Japan and the hatred directed at Korean children by Japanese classmates. She didn’t think it would be a historical novel but it needed that history. The segregation between Japanese and Koreans still exists in Japan and people of Korean descent will try to ‘pass’ as Japanese. Lee wrote this book originally as a study of masculinity, though her main character ended up being a woman. She wanted to talk about how the suppressed male minority can be emasculated. She also wanted to tell the story of the poor and illiterate. They never get a chance to write history but their work is what history depends on.

Lee took twelve years to publish her first book and is at work on a third with similar themes about Korean immigrants. Apply TV has picked up Pachinko for a series adaptation, though we won’t see that for about two years. Lee’s only hope is that the history is correct as she has no involvement in the show. The Japanese translation of the book is coming out in the fall. There is already a Korean translation and a copy of it appears in the Korean-Japanese Museum in Japan.

Lee offered some writing advice. As writers, we should expect to be interrupted, there’s almost never a smooth path to finishing a book. She advises listening to those interruptions as they may be redirecting the book. The quality of the work is what’s most important, not the quantity. As a writer, you’re asking your reader for their time more than their money. Authors make very little from the sale of each book. But each sale asks a reader for several hours of time to enjoy it. Writing is a long process and you should only do it if you really love it. Lee advises that novels should have things that happen, they need action and should follow the rules of the craft. Personally, she reads a verse of the Bible before she writes each time.

Luis Rodriguez at the Midwest Literary Walk

The second speaker was Luis Rodriguez, a poet and memoirist. He grew up poor in east LA and was involved in gangs. He’d lost 25 friends to violence and drugs by age 18. He is a former heroin addict and was in jail. He said that he wasn’t ‘scared straight,’ he was ‘cared straight’ and he now mentors prisoners to try and do the same. Rodriguez never saw himself as an immigrant in the US. He is part of the Tarahumara tribe of Mexico and those people lived in the US before there was an arbitrary border. He feels he’s become an expert in English and writing descriptive words because he worked hard to learn it in spite of his poor education and mastery as a youth.

The final speaker was Anissa Gray, a Michigan native and author of The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls, her first novel. Gray is from St. Joseph, Michigan (west side of the state) and attended Western Michigan University. The book is set in a fictional Michigan city that was inspired by St. Joseph and Kalamazoo. She’d been living outside of Michigan for 25 years when she started writing this book and I’d like to think she was homesick. This isn’t the book Gray set out to write. She wanted to focus on one character but realized she had to explore the character’s backstory and family to make the book work. She said she couldn’t make the characters do what she wanted, she had to listen to them and what they were going to do. One of the characters in the book has an eating disorder, as Gray herself has had. Writing about it made her talk about it in a way she hadn’t had to before. It was easy to write the character that was like her, but the others were a struggle. The story is honest and covers a complex issue. The people in the story are imperfect, but they’re hopeful that things will work out. and they might be OK in the end.

Anissa Gray and moderator Rich Fahle.

Gray offered a bit of writing advice. She’s a journalistic editor and she has to turn her editor mind off when she writes. She sets a schedule of time to write every day and pushes through even when she’s uninspired. She doesn’t have an outline but develops a mental plan of what she’ll write with a story and characters. She gets it down first before worrying too much about the language. That comes later. For this book, it took her about four major drafts to get to the final version.

Again, this was an amazing event and one I hope to attend for years to come. The Chelsea District Library does a great job and I’m so thankful to the writers who traveled to this small town to share their expertise with ravenously hungry readers.

Until next time, write on.

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