Laura's Reviews > Native Speaker

Native Speaker by Chang-rae Lee
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's review
Nov 30, 2010

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Read in November, 2010

not really sure what i think about this book. insightful. The protagonist, Henry Park - and Chang-rae Lee himself - had a much different experience growing up as a Korean-American than I did. Interesting how that is. i: no real ties to my Korean heritage, raised by altogether American parents (some lingering Polish influence at best) mainly in American suburbia (what seems to be the life-suck of immigrant culture). Lee/Park: infinite ties to his heritage, raised by Korean parents in a city where Korean culture lives on in that funny American way... the way I love -- in pieces, slightly tattered, but that much more alive, rooted, proud, lucid, something you can grab onto and let slip away in the same moment -- how can you not love something with so much at stake?

Lee reveals himself frankly in this book, uncomfortably at times, when you're unsure you want to know, that you want to be layered down with that. In a word, the book is forlorn. In a character, it is Eeyore. Park has lost his poor tail, so caught between two worlds - two cultures, separated by things much deeper than the Pacific - and then surrounded by grief - originating from his father, his son, his wife, his job. Yeah, that can get to be a little much. You never feel that Park has really reconciled himself to his surroundings, but maybe that's the point. Maybe issues like that - issues of identity (who are you?) and belonging (who loves you?) and tradition (what are you?) and necessary change (who do you want to be?) - are never resolved. they just are there, reminding us of our humanity. Lovely.
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