I like Casey a lot, but this book wouldn’t have been worth doing for five years if it was just Casey’s story. Casey’s a crazy Korean girl. And there are a lot of crazy Korean girls who smoke too much, sleep around, shop too much. I wanted to give those girls a voice, because I see those girls all the time, in a bakery like this, wasting their lives. I wanted to give her dimension, give her her story. Was she worth five years of my life? No. But her family, her friendships, her struggle in reaction to her community, that was worth it.
Reading that made me homesick for New York. Here’s a little more.
GT: Now, your parents didn’t want you to be a writer. Your father told you to go learn a trade.
MJL: Yeah. He wanted me to be secure. He wanted me to be a lawyer because it would be a protection. It makes sense. I’m sure part of my father’s logic is, why did I leave to come to the U.S. and have my daughter be some destitute artist? I came here to give her an education and a good life.
That said, I have a theory that you should pay yourself first.
GT: What do you mean?
MJL: If you’re making sacrifices, like quitting a secure job, you should make room for your art. You need to pay yourself first. An hour a day goes to you first, before you pay anyone else.
Even as I am a mom and wife, I always try to find time to pay myself first. Whatever my dream is, if I can’t give an hour of my time to my dream, then all of my sacrifices become meaningless.
In 2003, a magazine asked me what I thought about the state of Korean American writing today, and I said, Well, if you could see it from where I am, I think you’d feel pretty good about it. I talked about how there was a lot of interesting writing happening, and I said, In the next few years it will find its way into publication and into the world. They didn’t print that part of the interview and it made me kind of mad. In any case, Min Jin Lee’s work is one part of what I was talking about. More is coming. Go check it out now.