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Min Jin Lee on Writing Her Immigrant World

A Lifetime of Reading Taught Min Jin Lee How to Write About Her Immigrant World

By Min Jin Lee

This past year, I’ve spent most of my time in my drafty office in Harlem, where the water leak from the lintel above the south-facing window has reappeared after some bad weather. The elementary school across the street has been closed. I miss the happy laughter of the children. I’ve had some troubling news, and had to gather myself and remember how to solve knotty problems. I turn to my shelves again.

On Zoom, I tell my college students: “I know it’s lousy right now, but it’ll get better. You’re tough. We’ll figure this out.” I believe this. However, grief lingers. My favorite uncle has died.

Uncle John was the second son of a Presbyterian minister, the headmaster of an orphanage school. He came to the United States when he was 23 — the age my son is now.

John Y. Kim arrived in Missouri as a student a few years after the Korean War. In Warrensburg, he managed to study history, get married and have a daughter. He wanted to be a journalist. After getting his degree from the University of Central Missouri, he headed to N.Y.U. for a master’s in history but ran out of money. Read the full piece at the New York Times.

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