Dispatches | June 05, 2007

Five years ago we published a story called “Motherland,” by an emerging author named Min Jin Lee.  We were unanimous in our admiration of what was later selected as the best fiction of that volume year.  It’s the story of a Japanese woman restaurant owner with a compromised reputation and a Korean boyfriend, both of which put her at odds with her children. Memory is never totally reliable, but I recall it as being one of those first reads that snuck up on me.  Initially the prose seemed a little plain, but a few pages in there was a turning point, when I realized that I hadn’t read a story about characters this full and interesting in a long, long time.

The following fall we had the pleasure of meeting Min Jin when she accepted the William Peden Prize at our annual reading and reception in Columbia.  A confirmed New Yorker, Min Jin gave Yankees ball caps to all the editors.  We’ve stayed in touch off and on ever since.

Now Min Jin Lee has published her first novel, Free Food for Millionaires (Warner), a long but engaging and accessible novel about Koreans and Americans, class and money, in New York. I haven’t had the chance to read the entire novel yet, but I’ve read enough to know that it’s one I’d like to finish.  Before you check it out (and you should definitely check it out), read “Motherland,” one of our best stories of the past ten years.