Top 52 Min Jin Lee Quotes

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“Twenty-five million people who live in North Korea are denied freedom in every respect of their lives. In short, they are hostages. Imagine 25 million hostages.”

― Min Jin Lee

“Koreans love to dance; they love to sing. If you actually know Koreans, you see how absurd the stereotype of the ‘Asian robot’ is. They love to laugh – they’re very affectionate. Maybe because of their history of oppression, when they feel you are part of their tribe, they are intensely loyal. I love that about Koreans!”

― Min Jin Lee

“I had thought that Tokyo would be like New York City, but it wasn’t. I’d imagined that they’d be similar in their bustle and noise level, but, in fact, Tokyo is a very calm metropolis. The bright lights and hectic night-life images so often found in advertisements and Western media do not reflect every day Japan.”

― Min Jin Lee

“If I meet a wise person, I think, ‘Yes, tell me more about parenting, about marriage, about how to stay in love. Tell me more about how to be a decent person living in a world that’s filled with chaos.’”

― Min Jin Lee

“I had liver disease. I’m completely cured now, but I thought about if I died from liver cancer, what my life would look like. I followed this wish of being a fiction writer.”

― Min Jin Lee

“I think that social migration to another economic class requires a kind of negotiating with yourself. And also, there’s so much ambivalence in your heart about who you are and who you’re really not.”

― Min Jin Lee

“One thing that struck me in my study of history is how people are excluded. I don’t mean just racial minorities or women. Pretty much all poor people who don’t have documents are excluded from history and its records. People who were illiterate usually didn’t leave any primary documents.”

― Min Jin Lee

“After I quit being a lawyer in ’95, I was having a lot of trouble writing. Then I read somewhere that Willa Cather read a chapter of the Bible every day before she started work. I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll try it.’ Before each writing session, I started to read the Bible like a writer, thinking about language, character, and themes.”

― Min Jin Lee

“I thought, ‘Nobody wants this book, and I’m an idiot for having worked on it so hard.’ But to succeed in writing, you must be willing to look stupid for a long time. ‘Pachinko’ took so long because I got it wrong so many times.”

― Min Jin Lee

“We need to recognize how difficult and important being a mother is.”

― Min Jin Lee

“There’s a lot of freedom in failure, and I can see that now.”

― Min Jin Lee

“For me, whatever you write about should be worthy of your attention, worthy of your gifts. That’s very important.”

― Min Jin Lee

“I don’t hold any contempt for people who are practicing law. I know how hard it is, I know how hard they work, and I know some of them who are so unhappy with it.”

― Min Jin Lee

“You really should respect other people’s work because work is hard-won.”

― Min Jin Lee

“A novel, especially a first novel, is… really an emotional autobiography. All these emotions I’m embarrassed at having had, I’ve written about.”

― Min Jin Lee

“I think that if you’re a writer and a woman, then you have to take humiliation very well.”

― Min Jin Lee

“I have accepted the fact that I don’t work very quickly, that I have been rejected a lot as a writer, and that what I do is unusual, so I just have to accept the terms and that it’s going to take longer. It is what it is.”

― Min Jin Lee

“Pachinko, like all gambling, is rigged. The house always wins. It’s a central metaphor of life. It’s rigged, but you keep playing.”

― Min Jin Lee

“For me, writing a historical novel was really hard. I love history as a subject and majored in it in college. I think, in a way, my training made it worse for me because I knew how important it was to focus on document-based analysis, and I really didn’t want to get stuff wrong.”

― Min Jin Lee

“My father was born on Christmas Day in 1934. He grew up in what is now part of North Korea. When the Korean War began, my father was 16, and he found passage on an American refugee ship,thinking he’d be gone for just a few days, but he never saw his mother or his sister again.”

― Min Jin Lee

“One of the nice things about getting older is that you come to understand that you can integrate multiple aspects of your life together. When you’re young, you think everything has to be binary, as that’s exactly how you feel at that age.”

― Min Jin Lee

“People often think of America as a classless society, but, of course, that isn’t true. Within immigrant communities, there’s an enormous distinction of class, depending on who your parents are, and that kind of thing comes out really quick in things like marriage and interpersonal relationships.”

― Min Jin Lee

“I suffer from an enormous amount of self-doubt, so the fact that ‘Pachinko’ has been so kindly received has encouraged me not to give up, as I’m always telling myself that, ‘Maybe this isn’t a smart idea.’”

― Min Jin Lee

“My husband is half Japanese and half white European-American, and our son is half Korean, quarter Japanese, and a quarter white European-American.”

― Min Jin Lee

“I love most New England towns.”

― Min Jin Lee

“When my family was living in Tokyo, there was a year when we couldn’t go back to the States for Thanksgiving, and we went to Seoul. Mandu is a highly satisfying substitute for turkey and trimmings.”

― Min Jin Lee

“I got married when I was 24 and met my husband when I was 22, so what I know about men in a personal experience could literally fill an index card.”

― Min Jin Lee

“I think that the shame of being different is very painful for a lot of people.”

― Min Jin Lee

“I’ve often felt like an outsider, not necessarily because I’m Korean, an immigrant, or female. I think writers are odd people.”

― Min Jin Lee

“We’re always observing, and we’re cautious people. We really want attention, but at the same time, we’re ashamed of wanting attention. All those bizarre qualities of being outside are necessary for being a writer.”

― Min Jin Lee

“I have romantic ideas about home and what it should mean.”

― Min Jin Lee

“I do have love for Japan. At the same time, I have a complex relationship with Japan because I’m Korean. But I think it shows the strength of a country when you can talk about the past transparently.”

― Min Jin Lee

“I was very interested in history, but I also thought, you know, history is not that interesting sometimes, and it can feel a bit medicinal.”

― Min Jin Lee

“I think that what’s bizarre to me about life is that sometimes you have to have everything taken away before you experience grace or before you actually recognize that grace can happen to you.”

― Min Jin Lee

“I find being an adult very difficult. Being an adult artist, Asian American, incredibly difficult. Or trying, anyway.”

― Min Jin Lee

“We have huge holes in our education in the West. I think that we have little knowledge of Asian history. If you ask a well-educated, modern Western person about World War II, most will think that the theatre of war was only in Europe. But it’s known that the Pacific War was going on concurrently, and we don’t know anything about it.”

― Min Jin Lee

“I moved to Queens, New York, when I was seven and a half. I went to middle school in a foreign country, but I had so many different kinds of Americans push me along and encourage me. I was very odd. I didn’t talk very well. We were poor, and we didn’t have any connections, but people showed up and pushed me along.”

― Min Jin Lee

“We’re so willing to dehumanize entire populations in order for us to conveniently go along with our lives. We know exactly one North Korean, for example. The rest of them, we don’t know – but it makes it very easy to bomb North Korea if we pretend they’re all one person. Literature makes it harder to dehumanize people in this way.”

― Min Jin Lee

“As an artist, my wheelhouse is 19th-century literature. I want to write realist novels in a Victorian sense, and the writers I admire in that style tend to do omniscient narration.”

― Min Jin Lee

“The omniscient narrator is a bizarre technique, when you think about it, and no one uses it much anymore. But for the novels I want to write, it’s the only approach that makes sense to me.”

― Min Jin Lee

“Koreans are worried about the Japanese right-wing people, who tend to be against foreigners. But the Koreans in Japan aren’t even foreigners. They are essentially culturally Japanese. If a family has lived in Japan for three generations, it’s absurd to see them as foreigners.”

― Min Jin Lee

“I really love Japan, and I liked living there very much, and there are so many terrific things about Japan. However, I do think what’s amazing is that Japan really prides itself on being monoracial. It doesn’t have the same kind of idea as in the U.K. or Canada or the United States, in which the idea of diversity is a strength.”

― Min Jin Lee

“Education is a beautiful, liberating thing, but I think that tying in education and status, and the need to do well at every cost, is toxic.”

― Min Jin Lee

“I think it’s not an accident that you don’t have that many Asian American women writers who are breaking out. I don’t think it’s an accident that you don’t have that many Asian American writers, either women or men. I don’t think that immigrants are encouraged to become artists. That’s very gendered and racialized and ethnicized.”

― Min Jin Lee

“I have to be honest about this: I wouldn’t tell a lot of kids to go and be writers. It’s a tough, tough business. It’s not a business. It’s more like a tough road. It’s a really tough road.”

― Min Jin Lee

“It’s my belief that I was a writer – a very hardworking writer – well before I was published. I did care what others thought, and it was embarrassing when people asked me what I had published, so I didn’t talk much about writing; rather, I just kept writing.”

― Min Jin Lee

“I like making things. I enjoy putting words and images on a blank space. There should be joy in the writing itself because parts of it are so challenging and lonesome. I take great pleasure in reading, researching, and interviewing. I enjoy forming my sentences and revising them to make them clean.”

― Min Jin Lee

“I find putting oneself out there difficult. I think writing and sharing writing require different skill sets. I want to be read, but it takes courage to ask someone to read your work.”

― Min Jin Lee

“Themes don’t change very much in story telling, and I think each writer has his or her own territory; however, I think craft and style take a lot of time to develop. I don’t think there’s any other way to develop your own style without reading your betters.”

― Min Jin Lee

“We all want to be affiliated with success. It’s the impulse of people who have been excluded, and Koreans have been excluded from lots of parties.”

― Min Jin Lee

“As a woman of colour, as a person who is a minority, I believe its important that other people know about my language and I don’t necessarily have to explain. In the same way, when I read 19th-century literature and if I have to understand a Latin phrase or a French phrase, it is incumbent upon me to learn it.”

― Min Jin Lee

“I believe there is meaning in life. I believe there is good and evil.”

― Min Jin Lee
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