Book Review

Everything Asian

January 11, 2010

By Sung J. Woo (Thomas Dunne Books)

Five years after his father left for the United States, Dae Joon Kim (now rechristened David) and his mother and sister are uprooted from Korea to help run their Asian gift shop in a strip mall in New Jersey. Everything Asian, Sung J. Woo's debut novel, chronicles the year that follows. Narrated mainly by the 12-year-old Joon, the novel is interspersed with accounts from the other occupants of the mall including an audiophile Russian in love with his loudspeakers, a dying Korean woman and an Irishman experimenting with pantyhose. You get some of the usual immigrant concerns here: ESL classes, the Anglicization of names, the smell and taste of foreign food, but where the book shines is in its account of how the family struggles, not against America, but against itself. Ultimately, this is a novel about learning to live together again after separation, about tolerance for each other's foibles, and yes, about acceptance and forgiveness for lapses.