Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Mar 2020

Member Reviews

An interesting and compelling novel of the lives of women in Korea. Wage gap, glass ceiling, expectations for wives and mothers, harassment. All of the things, big and small, that perpetuate the issues these women face. Can't get hired because companies think they will not be long term employees and then provide no support at best and horrid treatment at worse that forces them to leave.  A quick read, but a worthwhile one. The translation flowed well.
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The book was unlike any I've ever read.  Overall, it was an eye-opening look at women's lives in Korea.  The most compelling parts of the novella were when the author focuses on the life of the title character.  It gets a little clunky when the author inserts footnoted research to reinforce the Jiyoung's struggles.  It sort of felt like reading a textbook at times.  One other bizarre choice was to frame the story with a psychologist's (?)  feedback on Jiyoung's life.  I understand that his views of Jiyoung and other women in his life reinforce many of society's views, but it just seemed unnecessary; I would have rather seen Jiyoung's story speak for itself.  Finally, her mental breakdown, introduced in the opening pages, seems underdeveloped: sort of like an afterthought..
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Well, THIS sure made my blood boil. All of it - every damn word - is so horrifically and exhaustingly true. It made me remember things from my life I'd completely forgotten about and I felt really and truly seen.

It did tend to feel a bit like preaching to the choir at times, especially considering that the half of the population that needs to read this book either won't or will take the wrong things from it (see: the psychiatrist at the end). And speaking of the ending: oof. That was a brutal cherry on top. Almost as masterfully done as the oh-so-telling omission of Jiyoung falling in love with her husband. (Because to show that in the hyper realistic world the author has written here would require a colossal suspension of disbelief.)

My only real major complaint for this book is that Jiyoung acting like other women was a barely there plot point. I really would've liked more of that, especially because it could have been so interesting. But aside from that, damn. What a depressingly accurate and vital book.
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I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

On one hand, me reading this book is like preaching to the choir. It's a work of fiction but it is very realistic, complete with footnotes (Cho was ready to smack down people who denied the conditions she wrote about). On the other hand, it provides new cultural facets in how women have had things stacked against them, or had hidden cameras exploiting them, this time in Korea.

The generational storytelling included in this book also highlights how, yes, things have gotten better, but true equality has still not been achieved. I particularly like how it points out how women can also been complicit in benefiting off women's unpaid labor or perpetuating misogyny wrapped in tradition. My favorite passage was one about unpaid labor done by women (not an exact quote): no one wants to know how much it would all cost, because then someone has to pay.
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Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 is able to put words to the feeling many modern women experience that "the world had changed a great deal" for us "but the little rules, contracts and customs had not, which meant the world hadn't actually changed at all". I think the initial set-up, a woman unable to express her desires and feelings who is overcome by the language and words of other women is extremely profound, and I wish that more time was spent teasing out this idea. The middle, which covers the entirety of Kim Jiyoung's life from birth to present, immerses you in the patriarchal world she's struggling against, and I found the section on the sacrifices of motherhood to be the strongest part, most insightful part. Overall, a brisk, interesting read. 

I will post this review on my goodreads on 3/31/2020: https://www.goodreads.com/libbyem
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As soon as I saw “Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982” by Cho Nam-Joo and read the synopsis that highlights feminism, new motherhood, and the story of a Korean millennial woman, I had to request it. Since reading Kang’s “The Vegetarian” and Lee’s “Pachinko,” I have been searching for other Korean literature and history. This compact little novella was such a treat! I loved it and would highly recommend for other young women. It is so relatably painful.

The writing style is so matter-of-fact, which could bother some readers, but it is still authentic to Kim Jiyoung's experiences. The narrator interspersed cited facts about Korean female education, achievement, employment from the 1980s to today. Following our protagonist’s life really emphasizes that professional success is a challenge for the modern Korean woman in a deeply patriarchal society. Women in western countries will also recognize these same institutional barriers and sympathize with the struggle Kim Jiyoung has to maintain a career. There is also a perspective shift in this book that is mind blowing and perfectly satirical. Who doesn’t love a twist!
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A young woman in her small apartment in South Korea a new mother struggling .As she starts to mentally deteriorate as her spirit seems to leave her body and her voice speaks out as though mimicking women in her life.Her husband frightened buy what he is observing sends her to a psychiatrist.As Kim starts to reveal herself to the dr.We are shown the shocking place women from childhood hold in South Korean society.This is a chilling read a book that leaves you thinking about your role as a female.This is literary fiction bat it’s best and a book that will be perfect for bookclub discussion.#netgalley#ww.nortonbooks
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I was really intrigued when I read the synopsis for "Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982". The beginning was fascinating and I really thought this book would be a page-turner. Well part of it was and part of it wasn't. The first half was much stronger than the second half. My main gripe is that the plot never stays in the present tense for the majority of the book. This young woman is experiencing a complete and utter mental breakdown, but I never fully got the whole scope of her condition because the story is mainly set in the past. This frustrated me immensely. Once we do get back to the present, the book is pretty much over. I liked the overall theme. I understand the point the author was trying to make about the worse thing a person can be is born the wrong gender. The feminism voice was very strong and eye-opening, but I wanted to fully envelop myself in Kim Jiyoung's fragile psyche. It would've made for a more powerful story. I love reading about mental illness because there is so much stigma attached to it. I applaud the author for not being afraid of shedding a bright light on such a sensitive but important topic. 

Thank you, Netgalley and W.W. Norton for sending a digital ARC, in exchange for an honest review. 

Release date: April 14, 2020
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The cover is beautiful, and the story is unlike anything I've read before. I was very interested in the story, and it was easy to get into. 

Although I don't think this book is for me, I know other people will love and relate to this story, as everyone has experienced the horrifying moment of losing oneself.
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I appreciated the information in this book, and the author's message about sex roles in Korean society, but unfortunately, the book didn't work for me as a novel.  It started off as the story of a mother having a mental breakdown.  I thought the rest of the book would explore what happened next.  Instead, it was the story of her life leading up to that incident, and it was told in a very non-novel like way.  It read like a basic retelling of the main character's life and her family relationships.  I felt that the character was quite privileged, all things considered, so the fact that she had a "breakdown" due to previous events in her life was not very believable.  She may have had some issues to kvetch about with her friends and family (and there was one really bad experience as an adolescent), but not anything that would seem to justify a complete disassociation from her real life.  The writing was clear and easily understandable, but there was nothing literary or poetical about it.
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This book is chilling, made even more uncomfortable by the uncorrected proof format. It's sobering to read about the lives of South Korean women underneath the K-POP and beauty routines we see in America.
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I think I went into this book thinking that it was something other than what it is. It starts out strange and it never does recover enough for myself to want to finish it. I will not be reviewing this book. 

Thank You for the chance to read this book!
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I'm really glad I had the opportunity to read this book. It's an unusual format with facts and stats on gender inequality included in the narrative. I can see why this was a big seller in Korea as it brings voice and humanity to the gender issues we've also experienced in the West.
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Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 was a fascinating read and hard to put down. The writing was engaging but the subject really punches you in the gut and you feel the sacrifice women are sometimes forced to make when having to decide between a satisfying and fulfilling education and career or being at home to raise and take care of their family. We see early on the difference in how boys and girls are treated from before birth and into adulthood based solely on their gender.  The topics of feminism, misogyny, family, and work/life sacrifices by women, were fully explored in the book and would make for very engaging discussions. Highly recommended for all.
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There probably isn't a woman on this Earth who cannot relate to Cho Nam-Joo's novella Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982, first published in Korean, and recently translated into English.  What makes this novella so accessible to women of all races, nationalities, and social and economic backgrounds is that it starkly and blatantly presents what it means to be a woman in a man's world.  A woman trying to be everything to everyone, while still attempting to hold on to a piece of herself.  If it sounds insurmountably difficult, that is because it is.

Kim Jiyoung is having a mental breakdown.  All we know is that she is displaying multiple personalities - taking on the identities of other women.  Of course, everyone thinks she has truly lost it, but readers are taken back to the beginning, when Jiyoung was a child, and it becomes apparent that she is plagued with a curse she has carried her entire life - she was born female.  

As a young girl in Korea, Jiyoung's role in this world was clearly defined for her from the outset - no matter how hard she worked, no matter how accomplished she was, she would always fall second behind men.  These clearly defined gender roles played an important part in Jiyoung's life, as is evidenced by this novella, which follows her as a young school girl, to a college student, to a professional in the marketing world, culminating in the fate of many women - life relegated as a wife and mother.  

Reading almost like a work of nonfiction, complete with footnotes to cite its more technical points about gender roles and stereotypes in Korea, Cho Nam-Joo paints a distressing portrait of an oppressed woman.  What makes this novel so chilling is that Kim Jiyoung could be so many of us.  While gender inequality in America is not in as great of dire straits as it is in Korea, many women have lost sleep at night trying to figure out how to balance both a career as a working professional and a career as a wife and mother, as well.  Many women have caused themselves undue stress and burnout trying to best the boys and climb the corporate ladder, only to discover that they often have to work twice as hard as the men to even think about gaining equal footing,  And that is why this novella is so timely and so important - it pulls back the curtain on the struggles women face as they attempt to juggle too many roles in a world that doesn't give them nearly enough credit.

Recommended to the feminist in all of us.
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