Min Jin Lee is the author of Pachinko, a sweeping, four-generation epic celebrated as the first novel written for an adult audience in English that focuses on Japanese-Korean culture. A finalist for the 2017 National Book Award in fiction, Pachinko is “a beautifully crafted story of love, loss, determination, luck, and perseverance” (Library Journal).
Both of Lee’s novels focus on Korean diaspora—while not connected by characters, her first two books, Free Food for Millionaires and Pachinko, are part of a trilogy of historical fiction exploring what it means to be Korean in other cultures. Her debut, Free Food For Millionaires, tells the story of a first generation Korean American girl living in Queens, navigating the intersection of her traditional family and her social circle. Released in 2007, Free Food for Millionaires was named one of the Top 10 Novels of the Year by NPR’s Fresh Air and USA Today.
Following the publication of her first book, Lee lived in Tokyo for a year while researching for Pachinko, interviewing an array of Korean Japanese people who suffered hardships and prejudice when resettling in their new home. Praised for its nuanced method of teasing out complex historical truths, her second novel appeared on the Best Fiction lists for the Guardian, Esquire, and the Chicago Review of Books, among others. Pachinko was also named one of the Best 10 Books of 2017 by the New York Times.
Lee was born in Seoul, South Korea and moved to the United States as a seven-year-old with her family. She grew up in Queens, New York, and she received her undergraduate degree in history from Yale College. She then went on to study law at Georgetown University and worked as a corporate lawyer, before turning to writing full time.
Lee has received the fellowship of fiction from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Lee is currently working on the third and final installment, a novel about hagwons, or private institutions common in South Korea that are intended to supplement regular education. Currently, Lee is a Writer-in-Residence at Amherst College.
??? Do we need this?: In 2002, Lee’s short story, Motherland won the Peden Prize for Best Short Story and in 2004, her short story Axis of Happiness won the Narrative Prize from Narrative Magazine.