Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: The Last Story of Mina Lee, 9/1/20

In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I like to use Fridays to look forward to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! This one, The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim, is pretty in keeping with my love of learning about other’s experiences and particuarly about Korean experiences.
Expected release date: September 1, 2020

  • Unsurprisingly, I’m excited about this because it’s an Asian female familial generational story. While that feels really specific, I realized I love these as I’ve been reading more in the past few months! (Ex. Unbound, The Joy Luck Club)
  • This also seems like its going to be two books in one, in a good way. I get the mystery with Margot around her mother’s death, and I get the love story probably gone wrong with Mina back in her youth. Watching the two intertwine and fitting the clues to the facts is so satisfying.
  • As I get older, I grow to appreciate how parents are still just people. Learning about your parents, the history you never knew, the secrets hidden behind the titles of mom or dad, I find it fascinating now. Learning Mina’s story through the context of Margot’s revelations will require Margot to retrofit her understanding of her mother with the new background. And also, like, who killed her???
  • The historical context of immigrating to the US and the difficulties that can come with it will reflect easily onto current day, I believe. Empathy when reading is a draw for me, as is learning about history and lives that I have never undergone (and likely never would).

Summary:
Margot Lee’s mother, Mina, isn’t returning her calls. It’s a mystery to twenty-six-year-old Margot, until she visits her childhood apartment in Koreatown, LA, and finds that her mother has suspiciously died. The discovery sends Margot digging through the past, unraveling the tenuous invisible strings that held together her single mother’s life as a Korean War orphan and an undocumented immigrant, only to realize how little she truly knew about her mother.

Interwoven with Margot’s present-day search is Mina’s story of her first year in Los Angeles as she navigates the promises and perils of the American myth of reinvention. While she’s barely earning a living by stocking shelves at a Korean grocery store, the last thing Mina ever expects is to fall in love. But that love story sets in motion a series of events that have consequences for years to come, leading up to the truth of what happened the night of her death.

Posted in Reviews

Review: Unbound: A Tale of Love and Betrayal in Shanghai by Dina Gu Brumfield

Unbound: A Tale of Love and Betrayal in Shanghai by Dina Gu Brumfield – ⭐⭐⭐
Expected publication: August 4, 2020

Recommended: yes
For a generational story of understanding, for a look at recent historical Chinese eras, for a story that pierces your heart and makes you want only the best for the characters, for a blend of romance and survival and coming-of-age.

love love love the cover. love.

Summary
​Mini Pao lives with her sister and parents in a pre-war Shanghai divided among foreign occupiers and Chinese citizens, a city known as the “Paris of the East” with its contrast of  vibrant night life and repressive social mores. Already considered an old maid at twenty-three, Mini boldly rejects the path set out for her as she struggles to provide for her family and reckons with her desire for romance and autonomy. Mini’s story of love, betrayal, and determination unfolds in the Western-style cafes, open-air markets, and jazz-soaked nightclubs of Shanghai—the same city where, decades later, her granddaughter Ting embarks on her own journey toward independence. 

Ting Lee has grown up behind an iron curtain in a time of scarcity, humility, and forced-sameness in accordance with the strictures of Chairman Mao’s cultural revolution. As a result, Ting’s imagination burns with curiosity about fashion, America, and most of all, her long-lost grandmother Mini’s glamorous past and mysterious present. As her thirst for knowledge about the world beyond 1970s Shanghai grows, Ting is driven to uncover her family’s tragic past and face the difficult truth of what the future holds for her if she remains in China.

Thoughts:
This was an elaborate and impressive saga of romance, and survival, and coming-of-age. Ting ages from a child to an adult women in the course of the story, and we see Mini from late teens to her elder years. That span alone is a lot to cover, and so the story relfects that in how long it can take to read. While it was engaging the whole way through, the concepts and stories are complex enough that it simply takes some time.

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