Monday, November 30, 2020

Review: Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ever since The Vegetarian became a massive hit (for good reason,) I have read a string of novels by female writers from Korea translated into English that capture elements of the lived experience of women navigating a society that is still very male-centric. Sometimes they do this through fantasy and the weird, or in this case, with documented research accompanied by endnotes for each chapter.

The sources include data points of sexism in the workplace, of female-exclusive hiring practices, pay disparities and more, like this:
"In 2014... one in five married women in Korea quit their job because of marriage, pregnancy, childbirth and childcare, or the education of their young children."
This seems didactic, no? Until you read the article on the BBC website about the outcry to the book (and movie made from it) since the book was published in Korea in 2016. It is accused of being "highly subjective" and making "sexist generalisations against men." The author's use of facts to back up her everywoman's story provides its own defense. And maybe she felt it would have more staying power in fictionalized form (certainly it was read by many people and became a best seller) - still for my own personal tastes, this is another example of characters and plot employed solely to teach or convince the reader something, and I was left wanting more (while still supporting the ideas.)

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