What is it about North Korea that so ignites the Western imagination? Is it the air of exoticism the West projects upon this defiant, seemingly unknowable Asian land? The novelty of a modern country that exists outside of time? Panic over the nation’s nuclear ambitions and unpredictable political climate? The response depends on who’s answering, but the country’s mystique endures. For some Americans, however, the specter of North Korea is neither alluring nor unknowable. It’s these people whom author Krys Lee speaks for in her new book Drifting House, a collection of short stories about Korean immigrants cast adrift from their homeland. Lee was born in South Korea and raised in California and Washington. Her characters span North and South Korea as well as the United States, a displaced class with no firm ground on which to stand. As they sift through the emotional wreckage left by civil war, political brutalities, financial collapse, and the prosaic details of getting by in places they’re unwelcome, the individuals in Drifting House reach for resilience amid nearly unimaginable hardship. Lee, who splits her time between South Korea and the United States, is an empathetic chronicler of a perpetually displaced people, writing with the immediacy of someone who has lived their experience.
Thu., Feb. 9, 6 p.m., 2012