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Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982: A Novel by [Cho Nam-Joo, Jamie Chang]

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Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982: A Novel Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 5,552 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

A former script writer, Cho Nam-Joo’s novel Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 was published in nineteen countries and sold more than two million copies.

Jamie Chang teaches at the Ewha Womans University in Seoul and was longlisted for a National Book Award for Translated Literature for Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982. --This text refers to the paperback edition.


"Cho’s clinical prose is bolstered with figures and footnotes to illustrate how ordinary Jiyoung’s experience is.... When Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982, was published in Korea in 2016, it was received as a cultural call to arms.... Like Bong Joon Ho’s Academy Award-winning film Parasite, which unleashed a debate about class disparities in South Korea, Cho’s novel was treated as a social treatise as much as a work of art.... The new, often subversive novels by Korean women, which have intersected with the rise of the #MeToo movement, are driving discussions beyond the literary world."
Alexandra Alter, New York Times

Kim Jiyoung] laid bare my own Korean childhood ― and, let’s face it, my Western adulthood too ― forcing me to confront traumatic experiences that I’d tried to chalk up as nothing out of the ordinary. But then, my experiences are ordinary, as ordinary as the everyday horrors suffered by the book’s protagonist, Jiyoung. This novel is about the banality of the evil that is systemic misogyny. . . . Jiyoung, like Gregor Samsa, feels so overwhelmed by social expectations that there is no room for her in her own body; her only option is to become something ― or someone ― else."
Euny Hong, New York Times Book Review

"Cho Nam-joo’s third novel has been hailed as giving voice to the unheard everywoman. . . . [
Kim Jiyoung] has become both a touchstone for a conversation around feminism and gender and a lightning rod for anti-feminists who view the book as inciting misandry . . . [The book] has touched a nerve globally . . . The character of Kim Jiyoung can be seen as a sort of sacrifice: a protagonist who is broken in order to open up a channel for collective rage. Along with other socially critical narratives to come out of Korea, such as Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar-winning film Parasite, her story could change the bigger one."
Sarah Shin, The Guardian

"Cho Nam-Joo points to a universal dialogue around discrimination, hopelessness, and fear."
Annabel Gutterman, TIME

"In this fine―and beautifully translated―biography of a fictional Korean woman we encounter the real experiences of many women around the world."
Claire Kohda Hazelton, The Spectator

"Cho deploys a formal, almost clinical prose style that subtly but effectively reinforces the challenges Korean women like Jiyoung endure throughout their lives in multiple contexts―familial, educational, and work-related. . . . Kim Jiyoung effectively communicates the realities Korean women face, especially discrimination in the workplace, rampant sexual harassment, and the nearly impossible challenge of balancing motherhood with career aspirations."
Faye Chadwell, Library Journal

"Following the life of the titular character from her mother’s generation through her own childhood, young adulthood, career, marriage and eventual 'breakdown,' the book moves around in time to subtly uncover how patriarchy eats away at the psyches and bodies of women, starting before they’re even born."
Sarah Neilson, Seattle Times

Rebecca Deczynski, Domino

"Already an international best-seller, television scriptwriter Cho’s debut novel has been credited with helping to ‘launch Korea’s new feminist movement.’ The fact that gender inequity is insidiously pervasive throughout the world will guarantee that this tale has immediate resonance, and its smoothly accessible, albeit British English vernacular–inclined, translation by award-winning translator Chang will ensure appreciative Anglophone audiences. Cho’s narrative is part bildungsroman and part Wikipedia entry (complete with statistics-heavy footnotes).... Cho’s matter-of-fact delivery underscores the pervasive gender imbalance, while just containing the empathic rage. Her final chapter, “2016,” written as Jiyoung’s therapist’s report―his claims of being “aware” and “enlightened” only damning him further as an entitled troll―proves to be narrative genius."
Terry Hong, Booklist [starred review]

"The book’s strength lies in how succinctly Cho captures the relentless buildup of sexism and gender discrimination over the course of one woman’s life. . . The story perfectly captures misogynies large and small that will be recognizable to many."
Kirkus Reviews

"[A] spirited debut . . . [T]he brutal, bleak conclusion demonstrates Cho’s mastery of irony. This will stir readers to consider the myriad factors that diminish women’s rights throughout the world."
Publishers Weekly

"Written with unbearably clear-sighted perspective,
Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 possesses the urgency and immediacy of the scariest horror thriller―except that this is not technically horror, but something closer to reportage. I broke out in a sweat reading this book."
Ling Ma, author of Severance

"I loved this novel. Kim Jiyoung’s life is made to seem at once totally commonplace and nightmarishly over-the-top. As you read, you constantly feel that revolutionary, electric shift between commonplace and nightmarish. This kind of imaginative work is so important and so powerful."
Elif Batuman, author of The Idiot

"This is a book about the life of a woman living in Korea; the despair of an ordinary woman, which she takes for granted. The fact that it’s not about ‘someone special’ is extremely shocking, while also being incredibly relatable."
Sayaka Murata, author of Convenience Store Woman, in Yomiuri Shimbun --This text refers to the paperback edition.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B07TK2N3FZ
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Liveright; Reprint edition (April 14, 2020)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ April 14, 2020
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 1738 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Sticky notes ‏ : ‎ On Kindle Scribe
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 166 pages
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.3 out of 5 stars 5,552 ratings

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Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5
5,552 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on May 9, 2020
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5.0 out of 5 stars This novel is worth your time. It is more than a collection of archetypes of discrimination.
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on May 9, 2020
I think this book is worth your time. But I think it is also worth tempering your expectations against the way the book has been advertised, especially in its English translation. For example, according to the inside of the hardcover dust jacket this is presented as the story of “a thirtysomething ‘millenial everywoman … at the center of our global #MeToo movement.’” I want to gently push back on this marketing copy as I think the novel and the characters rise above that of archetype and stereotype.

There can be something flattening about how the everyday indignity of sexism and discrimination is unintentionally smoothed over when described as “universal.” When discrimination happens to you, what can be so shattering is how excruciatingly individual and direct that pain can feel; how hard it can be to put what just specifically happened to you into words, let alone speak of it to others; finally, it is astonishing how difficult it can be for others to truly understand in a meaningful way what you, as an individual, went through: This is the experience that Cho Nam-Joo attempts to capture in this novel and one I feel the author succeeds in doing.

You are never left in doubt that this is a novel about Kim Jiyoung, and as you read, you will be told more about her older sister Kim Eunyoung, her mother Oh Misook, her grandmother Koh Boonsoon, and more. The circle of women in her life shape and inform, guide and restrict, challenge and sometimes even seem to possess her as their lives unfold and fold into each other’s. This is not a novel full of exquisite prose and brutal interiority that delves deep into the stream-of-consciousness of our central character. It is not slow or meditative. It is a blunt book. The narrative does not dawdle and is structured to move quickly across several periods of Kim Ji Young’s life labelled “childhood,” “early adulthood,” and (tellingly) “marriage.”

In the English translation by Jamie Chang, the plot of the novel carries an urgency and reads as taut like a spring, uncoiling as you read it. The story presents a steady, ceaseless stream of individual, highly personal episodic events from Kim Ji Young’s life as well as the other women in her life: Moments where their status as a woman was used by others to truncate a dream, bring them fear, make them uncertain, to be imposed on them by another as a way to reduce their ambitions or their agency. These moments begin in slow waves at first. And at a certain point, the narrator even begins to cite statistics from the likes of the Economist, or the Ministry of Labor, or Statistics Korea at the end of a narrative event, in the same manner as one might add an underscore or italics for emphasis. By the end, these moments arrive almost ceaselessly, one after the other. I certainly felt overwhelmed as a reader.

At 163 pages, I was able to finish the slim, hardcover version in a single sitting, on a quiet Friday. The ending of the novel, which I leave for you to discover, made me feel more acutely than ever the challenges we have in lasting empathy or understanding. The novel shows how easy it is, for anecdotes or accounts of suffering to induce a moment of clarity, and empathy, to bemoan the circumstances. It also shows how easy it is to revert to the mean, to proscribe a platitude, to once more slip into a norm of everyday inequity. I found this book to be a source of many good conversations, and an opportunity to discuss our individual experiences, and made me hope for more lasting awareness of our capacity to discriminate – unintentional or not – but also our ability to be better.
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Top reviews from other countries

3.0 out of 5 stars Unsure
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on March 16, 2020
28 people found this helpful
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James Tormey
4.0 out of 5 stars An important read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on November 17, 2020
18 people found this helpful
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Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Frustrating, honest and brilliant.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on February 20, 2020
13 people found this helpful
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Zorini Lungṭau
5.0 out of 5 stars Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 ❤
Reviewed in India 🇮🇳 on March 2, 2020
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Zorini Lungṭau
5.0 out of 5 stars Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 ❤
Reviewed in India 🇮🇳 on March 2, 2020
I'm happy we finally got an English translation. This book delineates gender bias in Korean society in general and in family and workplace in particular. It highlights the complete absence or extremely low percentage of one gender as you go higher in management and its effect in policy making that often ended up favouring one gender over another, and the detrimental effect on the entire working population.
It also talks about menstruation, maternity leave, unequal pay and unequal division of unpaid labour, spy cams and pornography, child care, and the insensitivity of the general public towards these matters.
It will definitely make it to my favourite books of all time.
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Claudia Hee Youn Chung
5.0 out of 5 stars Feminista oriental
Reviewed in Brazil 🇧🇷 on August 10, 2020
35 people found this helpful
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