Cover Image: Skinship

Skinship

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Member Reviews

I love this collection of short stories by Yoon Choi. Each story features different characters facing different day to day issues. In one story a mother leaves behind a child in South Korea to start a new life in a new marriage in America, only to reunite a few years later. In another visions of grand living are squashed when a wife from a affluent family moves to be with her husband in America to start a convenience store business. And in another an old man with Alzheimer's struggles to make it through a few hours of watching his grandson while his wife is out at the store. 

Each of these stories struggles with deep emotions of disappointment,  love, cultural displacement, and lack of affection between familial ties. The underlying connection is that they all depict some aspect of Korean American life and experience. Though they are all different, the emotions they are experiencing are the same. 

It wasn't a happy book, but Choi's writing is as beautiful as it is poignant. You will want to race through each story, but readers will benefit from taking their time with each one. Choi expresses thoughtful ruminations as she looks back through years of shared experiences.
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This book of short stories is character driven and quiet. It gives a glimpse into the lives of Korean immigrants as they find home in the United States. I liked the writing but some of the stories were slow for me.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Knopf for providing a free advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

Heartfelt and touching, Yoon Choi's Skinship was a wonderful collection of short stories that left me thinking about them for a long time after I finished the book. These stories and characters tugged at my heartstrings and this debut work felt fully formed. I'm looking forward to Choi's future work.
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This was a wonderful collection of short stories. I am so grateful to have been provided an ARC. Thanks so much to NetGalley and the publisher. There are 8 stories in this collection, and each of the stories focuses on the Korean American experience and familial relationships. The writing was subtle, but beautiful. The characters felt like real people. If you enjoy short stories, I highly recommend picking up this collection when it is released on August 17.
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5 stars 

This is an outstanding collection that centers on deep connections, personal growth (and lack thereof), public versus private lives, and countless aspects of identity. Every story presents intimate revelations, and Yoon's talent is not only in creating beauty through this genre but in excavating what feel like individual and collective truths through each character's experience. 

Readers interested in this collection may have come across "The Art of Losing" in a number of other places (another very famous collection, online) and be concerned that nothing can top or come close to matching that piece. Set those fears aside. While that's the story of Yoon's I'll be teaching this semester, any one of the works in here is not only syllabus worthy (for me, one of the highest points of praise available) but is also easy to recommend to any reader. These characters - even those who harbor secrets that make them less sympathetic - are wildly relatable. The style and development will appeal not only to lovers of the genre but also to those who prefer the kind of in-depth revelations that novels and novellas (ideally) provide. 

I often tear through books in a single sitting or in a couple of days, but I forced myself to take this one at a slower pace so that I could fully immerse myself in the themes and characters here. This was the right approach. Savor these stories. Sit with these characters and their choices. Know more about yourself and the people around you as a result. 

Highly recommended. I can't wait to teach this in a few weeks!
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This is an insightful collection of the Korean-American experience as first- and second-generation immigrants.  There are familiar themes of families and individuals grappling with the language barrier, isolation, harrowing loneliness, the pangs of assimilation and acceptance; however, these stories also contained unknown aspects of Korean culture and tradition for this reader, so I appreciated the experience.  There is also breadth and depth to the stories - each with a slight twist or thought-provoking aspect - they are well-rounded and expansive told from varying perspectives:  old/young, male/female, children/adults, married/single, across varying socio-economic classes.
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Thank you to Knopf and NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Skinship by Yoon Choi is a collection of touching, poignant stories about Korean and Korean-Americans.  First off, as a reader of Asian descent, I definitely want to support the author.  During this time, especially, it's so important to support #ownvoices writers of Asian descent.  However, I also have to be honest about my opinions.  To be honest, I didn't really enjoy this book, and I think it was because the stories hit too close to home.  

In one of the stories, a Korean mother says that her daughter's Indian friend's skin is too dark.  It's obvious from the story that the mother is wrong and that the comment was racist.  It also reminded of my own mother's casual racism toward darker-skinned people.  In another story, a Korean mother beats up her son after he gets in trouble at school, not caring that other adults can see.  It reminded me of fights that I had with my own mom, which sometimes turned physical.  Although I can see how the stories have literary merit, they brought up a lot of negative emotions and memories.for me. I almost feel like this book would be perfect for non-Asian readers who are looking for a "tour" or insight into Asian customs and mindsets.  

Here is an excerpt from the second story, First Language. I loved the descriptions of food, especially the reference to dried squid, which is probably my favorite snack:

"Because we have the long way to go, I have packed a cooler bag with some Korean snack and keep it next to my feet. As my husband drives, I ask, Do you want the bottle of water? How about the dried squid? I also have Japanese purple yam, glutinous steamed corn, and apple-mint xylitol gum. He says, Not now. So I keep putting the food in my mouth. I chew the squid with my back teeth for a long time because it is so chewy."

And here is another excerpt from First Language, which reminded me a bit of the "matchmaker scene" in the beginning of Mulan: 

"Big Mother was now in the good mood, which was because she thought everything was decided. She made the clicking sound with her tongue and her teeth. “Just look at that milky skin! Those charm cushions! That’s why we have the saying: A woman’s face is her destiny.”
...
Then she used the little-girl voice because she was speaking her English with the accent, “Sae-Ri-ya: how are you?”
“I am fine, thank you,” I said, also in English.
“Listen to that,” said Big Mother. “Those English lessons are really paying off. She will have a good time in America.” 

I don't mean to make light of the sensitive and heavy topics that are included in this collection of short stories.  There is a lot that isn't shown in the excerpts above.  When choosing excerpts, I look for "snacks" or light, funny pieces to draw potential readers to the book.  So the excerpts above aren't representative of the tone of the entire book.

Overall, Skinship is a serious collection of short stories that reminded me a lot of my childhood and made me think about my relationship with my parents. I think it would appeal most to non-Asian readers, because it hit too close to home for me.  That's the only reason I took off a star.  If you're intrigued by the excerpts above or if you're interested in reading short stories by and supporting diverse authors, I highly recommend that you check out this book when it comes out in August!
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