The Magical Language of Others: A Memoir

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In The Magical Language of Others, E.J. Koh takes her readers on a wonderfully written, if sobering, journey through the history of the women of her family and her own journey to being the author of this memoir. Born in Milpitas, California to Korean immigrant parents, Koh’s mother and father start out humbly but move up in society rapidly after her father makes some dedicated business maneuvers in the tech industry. When her mother and father decide to move back to Korea temporarily for her father’s work, they leave Koh to live with her older brother in Davis.

The familial tales of stark trauma are paced between translated letters from her mother, passionately and consistently sent off from Korea while Koh grew up with her brother. Each story is a patchwork of isolated devotion, and over time Koh sews them delicately together to create a quilted spread of familial feminine pain. But Koh does not pity herself or her family. In fact, she is economical enough with her prose to waste little time reflecting on the grand scheme of raw deals the women of her family have faced, but rather reckons these events in an empathetic but ultimately detached tone. Koh’s writing does not err on the side of the histrionic, and therein lies her genius; she leaves space for the reader to feel all those feelings on her behalf. The effect is a quiet and brief memoir that immediately pulls you in and leaves your heart wrenched by imagined grief and love.


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Author E. J. Koh
Star Count 5/5
Format Hard
Page Count 203 pages
Publisher Tin House Books
Publish Date 2020-01-07
ISBN 9781947793385
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue April 2020
Category Biographies & Memoirs
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