Monday Books No. 15: The Prince of Mournful Thoughts and Other Stories

Aloha! I want to recommend The Prince of Mournful Thoughts and Other Stories by Caroline Kim. This is literary fiction, and in its craft and worldmaking is literary realism at its best. The stories cover a range of times, places, and characters—but the book’s central characters are unapologetically Korean or Korean American. This is the book’s strength.

I believe due to the proximity of whiteness, Asian American literature frequently navigates out of the space of the specificities of their group’s experiences, and what then follows is an explanation of the group or cultural ideologies or situations to a broader (white) audience. Kim has little inclination to do this; instead, she pulls the audience into the Korean/American experience. Thematically, this book thematically points to the Korean idea of han the belief of resilience and endurance. Pathos and blues. Memory, connection, and longing. There is no translatable English equivalent to han. It is distinctly a Korean expression and idea. Kim’s stories have this quality. Lyrical. Aching. Transcendent. Kim has a distinct literary voice.

This is a serious and weighty book and the crafting of each story is a remarkable testament to writerly technique. These are also teachable stories, so I recommend them to teachers – grades 11/12 on up. Formidable writing. Read it! 

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