by Joe Milan Jr.
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Pub Date 04 Apr 2023 | Archive Date 31 Mar 2023
A debut novel grappling with contested American identity, masculinity, and deportation, told in one of the most memorable adolescent voices in contemporary literature.
In rural Washington State, Bucky, a Korean American high school senior, trains hard to pursue his only ambition: to play college football. But when the US government deports him to South Korea, he finds himself alone in a country where he can’t speak the language (he can’t even pronounce his “paper name,” Yi Beyonghak), is conscripted to the army, and is obligated to pay off the debts of his long-missing bio-father.
From a hostel and expat bar in Seoul; to rural South Korea, where his bio-father is drowning in alcohol; to a remote island where a crazed sergeant still fights a bitter war with North Korean enemies, Beyonghak battles a morass of bureaucracy and betrayal in order to find his way home. Along the way, he must face down essential questions about who he is to others, and the type of man he wants to become.
About the Author: Joe Milan Jr. is a second-generation Korean American and taught in Korea for nine years. An assistant professor of creative writing at Waldorf University, he lives in Forest City, Iowa.
"With lean, propulsive prose, Joe Milan, Jr. has created an unforgettable character in American fiction, Beyonghak ‘Bucky’ Yi, a ‘stranded townie’ whose gifts as a running back may just be able to change his life for the better. Part high-drama, part dark comedy of the absurd, The All American is as wonderfully entertaining as it is moving, and I simply could not put it down. I suspect that you won’t be able to either." - Andre Dubus III, author of Gone So Long and House of Sand & Fog
"The All-American is a potent, spellbinding novel about the meaning of family and the pull of home. A true and specific story of Asian American identity and adoption, football fantasies and immigration detention nightmares. Joe Milan Jr. is a writer with guts and talent." - Jean Chen Ho, author of Fiona and Jane
"A funny and heartbreaking novel that gets to the heart of our post-national world... revealing the human consequences of white altruism and cultural myopia." - Jess Row, author of White Flights
"Only a novelist as gifted as Milan Jr could have transformed this nightmare tale of a world lost into profoundly moving meditation on nationhood, belonging and the possibility of rebirth … with this incredible debut Milan has rocketed himself into the literary stratosphere." - Junot Diaz, author of The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
"An explosively powerful, unpretentiously original, darkly comic novel about dreams fulfilled by the most unexpected, convoluted and crookedest path. In this universe, there are no model minorities, no redemptions, neither heroes nor villains, only those who strive against the odds of underprivilege. Milan's refreshingly different voice and narrative keeps you reading to the sweetly bitter and weirdly hopeful end." - Xu Xi, author of Habit from a Foreign Sky
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 22 members
This book takes the reader on quite a journey! It's a quiet masterpiece. That's what I thought when I finished reading it because Milan has managed to subtly make statements on identity, family, nationality, politics, sports and even the Korean military. This book will take you places where you've never been before and the main character has some of the oddest experiences you could ever imagine one person having. Yet, the story is strangely believable. It's a coming-of-age story and by the end you'll be loving this kid.
Thank you to NetGalley for an advance copy of this book. I loved it and I hope others do as well.
In this book we follow a young man named Bucky through his trials and tribulations of being deported from the country he calls home to the country in which he was born. "The All-American" throws a lot at Bucky, and as a reader I enjoyed the journey. At first immature and hot-tempered, Bucky grows up and finds ways to make the most out of the situations he finds himself in. I think many people will be able to relate to Bucky, all in different ways. If anyone has ever felt like an "other," I would recommend picking this up. Some moments of dialogue felt a little clunky and unnatural, but aside from that I think this book will have a long life ahead.