The Magical Language of Others
by EJ Koh
Pub Date 06 Jan 2020
Talking about this book? Be sure to tag it using #TheMagicalLanguageOfOthers #NetGalley
A tale of deep bonds to family, place, language—of hard-won selfhood told by a singular, incandescent voice.
After living in America for over a decade, Eun Ji’s parents return to Korea for work, leaving fifteen-year-old Eun Ji and her brother behind in the family’s new California home. Overnight, Eun Ji finds herself in a world made strange in her mother’s absence. Her mother writes letters over the years seeking forgiveness and love—letters Eun Ji cannot understand until she finds them years later hidden in a box.
The letters lay bare the impact of her mother’s departure, as Eun Ji gets to know the woman who raised her and left her behind. Eun Ji is a student, a traveler, a dancer, a poet, and a daughter coming to terms not only with her parents’ prolonged absence, but her family’s history: her grandmother’s Jun’s years as a lovesick wife in Daejeon, the horrors her grandmother Kumiko witnessed during the Jeju Island Massacre. Where, Koh asks, do the stories of our mothers and grandmothers end and ours begin? How do we find words—in Korean, Japanese, English, or any language—to articulate the profound ways that distance can shape love?
The Magical Language of Others is a fearless and poetic mind grappling with forgiveness, reconciliation, legacy, and intergenerational trauma—conjuring an epic saga and love story between mothers and daughters spanning four generations.
About the Author: E. J. Koh is the author of poetry collection A LESSER LOVE, winner of the Pleiades Editors Prize (Louisiana State U. Press, 2017). Her poems, translations, and stories have appeared in Boston Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, World Literature Today, among others. She is the recipient of The MacDowell Colony and Kundiman fellowships, 2017 ALTA Emerging Translator Mentorship, and is Runner-Up for the 2018 Prairie Schooner Summer Nonfiction Prize.
A Note From the Publisher
IndieNext votes due by 11/4 and LibraryReads votes due by 12/1.
“The Magical Language of Others is an exquisite, challenging, and stunning memoir. E. J. Koh intricately melds her personal story with a broader view of Korean history. Through these pages, you are asked to experience one family’s heartbreak, trauma, and complex love for each other. This memoir will pierce you.” - Crystal Hana Kim, If You Leave Me
“In The Magical Language of Others, E.J. Koh writes of the boundary, between anonymity and naming, between absence and abandonment, between cruelty and safety for four generations of mothers and daughters, each speaking with an occupied heart and crossing narrative borders between Korea, Japan, and America. As a reader, you give yourself over to her narrative territory and the resetting of the borders of lineage, language, and lives lost.” - Shawn Wong, Homebase and American Knees
“This memoir broke my heart. The tragedies that filled the lives of Koh's mother and grandmothers are woven into mythic, magic tales in Koh's hands. Only by Koh's grace and mastery are we not crushed by the stories within The Magical Language of Others. I could read this book a thousand times over.” - Sarah Blake, Naamah
“E.J. Koh’s The Magical Language of Others grapples with intergenerational loss and love between mothers and daughters across time, war, and immigration. Koh’s painful journey is bridged by her mother’s letters, which she translates, unfolding the language of mothering and tenderness. Koh remarkably and beautifully translates the language of mothers as the language of survivors.” - Don Mee Choi, author of Hardly War