Krys Lee is the author of Drifting House and How I Became a North Korean. She is a recipient of the Rome Prize and the Story Prize Spotlight Award, the Honor Title in Adult Fiction Literature from the Asian/Pacific American Libraries Association, and a finalist for the BBC International Story Prize. Her fiction, journalism, and literary translations have appeared in Granta, The Kenyon Review, Narrative, San Francisco Chronicle, Corriere della Sera, andThe Guardian, among others. She is an assistant professor of creative writing and literature at Yonsei University, Underwood International College, in South Korea.
HOW I BECAME A NORTH KOREAN
Penguin Books, US & Canada,2016
All international rights available except Italy.
"Lee takes us into urgent and emotional novelistic terrain: the desperate and tenuous realms defectors are forced to inhabit after escaping North Korea.” –Adam Johnson, author of The Orphan Master’s Son
"The more confusing and horrible our world becomes, the more critical the role of fiction in communicating both the facts and the meaning of other people’s lives. Krys Lee joins writers like Anthony Marra, Khaled Hosseini and Elnathan John in this urgent work." –San Francisco Chronicle
Yongju is an accomplished student from one of North Korea's most prominent families. Jangmi, on the other hand, has had to fend for herself since childhood, most recently by smuggling goods across the border. Then there is Danny, a Chinese-American teenager whose quirks and precocious intelligence have long made him an outcast in his California high school.
These three disparate lives converge when they flee their homes, finding themselves in a small Chinese town just across the river from North Korea. As they fight to survive in a place where danger seems to close in on all sides, in the form of government informants, husbands, thieves, abductors, and even missionaries, they come to form a kind of adoptive family. But will Yongju, Jangmi and Danny find their way to the better lives they risked everything for?
Transporting the reader to one of the least-known and most threatening environments in the world, and exploring how humanity persists even in the most desperate circumstances, How I Became a North Korean is a brilliant and essential first novel by one of our most promising writers.
A Collection of Short Stories
Penguin Books, US & Canada ;Faber & Faber UK & Commonwealth 2010
All international rights available except Italy.
Set in Korea and the United States from the postwar era to contemporary times, Krys Lee's stunning fiction debut illuminates a people struggling to reconcile the turmoil of their collective past with the rewards and challenges of their present. Amid the famine in North Korea, the financial crisis of South Korea, and the cramped apartments and Koreatown strip malls of the United States, Krys Lee's vivid and luminous tales speak to the political and financial hardships of life in Korea and the uniquely unmoored immigrant experience.
In the tradition of Chang-rae Lee's Native Speaker and Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies, Drifting House is an unforgettable work exploring love, identity, war, and the homes we make for ourselves, by a dazzling new writer.
“In nine haunting tales, this Korean-born author . . . writes of the psychological fallout from Korea's troubled history and the toll on families living in a fractured world. . . . The metaphor of the drifting house serves as an apt, unifying roof over these harrowing, tragic stories about unmoored characters who find themselves neither here nor there. Lee . . . is well on her way to a promising literary career.” —NPR.org
“When reading the stories of debut author Krys Lee's Drifting House, the simplicity and restraint of the writer come to the fore: declarative sentences, no fulsome descriptions despite the exotic locales of some of her stories. It is in this quiet confidence that the true strangeness and beauty of the work can emerge. . . . It is the cool telling that allows the tectonic plates of history, social forces and circumstances to move beneath these stories, conveying the feeling that something urgent and profound is at stake, beyond the lives of these striving, damaged and unforgettable characters.” —Marie Myung-Ok Lee, San Francisco Chronicle
“This powerful debut collection takes an unflinching look at the reality of life in Korea. . . . Lee plumbs the darkness on both sides of this divided nation. . . . Hers is a unique approach. . . . By showing these authentic, everyday people at dramatic and pivotal moments, Krys Lee strips them to the core of their humanity. Her vision is a solemn one, but an important one too.” —Financial Times
“Krys Lee . . . is already a precise stylist and an unflinching observer of the unfortunate lot of her compatriots, those who stay [in Korea] and those who make it to the States. . . . In the best stories, like the tragic yet luminous ‘A Small Sorrow,’ the story of a flawed marriage and an artistic rivalry, Lee's psychological acuity is empathetic under its unsentimental portraiture.”—The Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Drifting House has shades of Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth in its rendering of split cultural identities. But even more, it recalls Alice Munro’s Too Much Happiness, holding beauty and brutality in an elegant equipoise. . . . In her textured, knowing and brilliant debut, Lee tells hard truths, tenderly.”—The Kansas City Star