The Magical Language of Others by E. J. Koh

The Magical Language of Others

The Magical Language of Others is a powerful and aching love story in letters, from mother to daughter. After living in America for over a decade, Eun Ji Koh’s parents return to South Korea for work, leaving fifteen-year-old Eun Ji and her brother behind in California. Overnight, Eun Ji finds herself abandoned and adrift in a world made strange by her mother’s absence. Her mother writes letters, in Korean, over the years seeking forgiveness a...


Details The Magical Language of Others

TitleThe Magical Language of Others
ISBN9781947793385
Author
Release DateJan 7th, 2020
PublisherTin House Books
LanguageEnglish
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Contemporary, Biography, History, Biography Memoir, Literature, Asian Literature, Family, Cultural
Rating

Reviews The Magical Language of Others

  • Olive
    1970-01-01
    The below review originally appeared on Open Letters Review.Nearly every teen girl has probably had their own Home Alone fantasy at least once. As one’s age ticks upward, so does the restlessness for independence, particularly from one’s mother. She’s embarrassing. She’s restrictive. She seems out to make you unhappy. But like Kevin McCallister’s startling realization, it’s only when that figure is truly absent that a child begins to ...
  • Christy
    1970-01-01
    The Magical Language of Others is a story of memories. Much of this memoir is translated letters that Eun Ji received from her mother after her parents moved off to South Korea. Eun Ji and her brother were left completely alone in California. The mother's letters are littered with guilt about the abandonment, yet she never comes back for her daughter who isn't even an adult yet. They promised two years and then her father continues to sign renewa...
  • Janet (MommyTheReader)
    1970-01-01
    This remarkable little book stirred up such heavy emotion within me. You'd quickly realize Koh is a poet, even without reading so in her bio. The way she frames her story, the words she picks, that intimate connection she makes with you in less than 200 pages, the honest biting beauty in all of it, ahhh, I'm still gushing over this book. 5 brilliant stars. This remarkable little book stirred up such heavy emotion within me. You'd quickly realiz...
  • Andrew
    1970-01-01
    This autobiography is adjacent to a memory box-- mixed in with Eun Ji's tenderly translated letters from her mother, we see bits and pieces of her life, the mundane and the extraordinary, as she navigates high school and college life a continent away from her parents. E.J. becomes many things-- a driven student, a dancer, a poet. Koh also delves into the history of both her maternal and paternal grandmothers; they too have fascinating stories. He...
  • Bina Bhakta
    1970-01-01
    Beautifully written. Definitely will need a few years to process this book Beautifully written. Definitely will need a few years to process this book 😭
  • Lynda
    1970-01-01
    Many thanks to the publisher (Tin House) for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review. This book is amazing, and walks a fine line between prose and poetry, telling the stories of women, abandonment, war, death, family relationships and all from the eyes of different generations in different countries. This author has a great future. Cons: there were times in reading this book where I couldn't tell which person/generation we were hearing...
  • Audrey
    1970-01-01
    Beautifully written with unflinching honesty. This memoir encompasses mothers’ love and guilt for their child while that child also learns about her family’s history. E.J.’s pain is so raw it’s sometimes difficult to process. It the memoir is really about the women of this family as they survive their respective hardships and reconcile it with love and forgiveness. I received an arc from the publisher but all opinions are my own.
  • Katie
    1970-01-01
    I’m not totally sure what to make of this memoir. It’s about loneliness and forgiveness, but it’s also about generational suffering and abandonment. When Eun Ji’s parents leave her and her brother alone in California to return to South Korea for work, it’s under the guise that they’re “doing it for their children.” Eun Ji’s mother calls her and writes letters about how much she misses her, yet the statements always feel a bit ho...
  • Greg Barbee
    1970-01-01
    Magnanimity. It has been several years since a book compelled me to stay awake into the wee hours of the morning finishing it, and yet E.J. Koh’s extraordinary, magnanimous memoir, The Magical Language of Others, did just that. Eun Ji’s recounting of her relationship with her mother and family over the last 20 or so years exhibits power and grace in poetic (not surprising, given her experience and success as a poet) prose.I particularly enjoy...
  • Kyra Johnson
    1970-01-01
    Thank you @tin_house & @thisisejkoh for this gorgeous, unflinchingly honest memoir. The Magical Language of Others details Koh’s personal experiences, her family’s fascinating history, explores the beauty of language and the power of a love shaped by distance. Koh’s father receives a substantial job offer in Korea and both parents leave a fifteen-year-old Koh in the care of her older brother in California. Koh is left on her own at a pivota...
  • Aleya Elkins
    1970-01-01
    This is absolutely my new favorite book. I cannot recommend it enough. Koh has a unique ability to share entire periods of life through minutely detailed snapshots. I often struggle with books which jump quickly through time as I hate the feeling of missing out, but Koh's words are so perfectly selected that I never had this issue. I was left stunned multiple times by the weight of a short phrase. This book is as stark and steadfast as it is poet...
  • Shilo
    1970-01-01
    This book is an exceptional read: part memoir, part history, part generational saga. E.J. Koh moves fluidly from memoirist to historian, from historian to biographer with swift and deft strides that feel expansive even as the text itself is spare. What connects all of these elements is her journey through language beginning first with her mother(s) language, Korean, but grounded firmly in American English. We journey with her to the language of J...
  • Allisyn Ruttle
    1970-01-01
    I listened to the audiobook, though I wish I’d read the physical copy. The letters in this book have a lot of nuances that are better seen than heard. Giving 4 stars overall - the pace and the transitions from different points in time were inconsistent at times, but I wonder if that would be alleviated had I opted for the paper copy over the audiobook. Overall, insightful portrayal of a mother daughter relationship and the weight that women car...
  • Neeve
    1970-01-01
    I think this book would resonate very strongly with some people - just not me
  • Stephanie Crowe
    1970-01-01
    How can I express myself upon reading this most unusual memoir? I experienced a myriad of emotions as I read through the letters that Eun Ji received from her mother who had left her in California at 15 while she and E.J.’s father returned to Korea. Initially I was upset that the mother would abandoned her. Although her letters seemed to speak of love I questioned the sincerity of her words. As E.J. continued her journey to become educated and ...
  • SundayAtDusk
    1970-01-01
    “Looking at a person’s life, one could not observe a single memory and claim to know. One must understand each and every memory to glimpse the meaning of a life.”E. J. Koh tells her life story in this memoir using memories. No more. There is really no deep analysis or explanations. The reader must come up with their own thoughts as to why things happened, why things were as they were. This will probably cause some problems with some readers...
  • Lauren
    1970-01-01
    I'm feeling conflicted over what to say about this memoir. The writing is beautiful (I've been familiar with EJ's writing for years, so that's not surprising) and she uses it effectively to capture the memories scattered throughout. What has me conflicted is the overall occurrence that lead to the creation of this emotional memoir.Why did her parents think that it was a good idea to leave their children all alone - one of whom was under 18 at the...
  • Lauren
    1970-01-01
    Eun Ji is fifteen when her parents return to Korea for her father's job, leaving her and her brother alone in California, feeling abandoned by parents who believed they had made the right decision: that providing more for their children with their absence was better than providing less with their presence. Eun Ji's mother writes her letters, telling her about her aunts and uncles, renewed life in South Korea, and how much she misses her—her gui...
  • Teresa Tomaz
    1970-01-01
    When I first started reading "The Magical Language of Others", I was not sure of my feelings towards it. I guess I was afraid it would mainly consist of letters. Even though I deeply enjoyed some books with letters ("Letters to a Young Poet" by Rainer Maria Rilke and "The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh" come to mind), I often prefer a reflective autobiographical style. But I have to say I immediately started loving E. J. Koh's book.What surprised me...
  • Preeti
    1970-01-01
    The moment I started this memoir I was sucked in and wanted to know more about E.J. Koh and her family. They are a South Korean family who had been living in America for many years. Koh's father received a job offer in South Korea so both her parent's decided to go and leave 15 year old Koh and her older brother alone in California. This separation affected Koh deeply. While apart for about 6-7 years Koh's mother wrote her letters to bridge the a...
  • Tony Mercer
    1970-01-01
    The Magical Language of Others is a poetic genealogy of a family marred by atrocity, immigrating to the United States and then leaving their children to care for themselves as they finish high school and transition to adulthood. But rather than the story driving the narrative, it is language that fuels the book: letters written by her mother, poetry she has written, words of her companions, and stories of her ancestors. Koh notes, "Korean classro...
  • Emi Bevacqua
    1970-01-01
    E.J. Koh is a candid writer with a lyrical bent, and while I feel it is quite gracious and courageous of her to share the 49 letters from her mother, I also feel she introduced a lot of tantalizing or provocative inklings of stuff she's been through but then didn't explain what came of it. And most importantly, I think Koh is much too young to be subtitling this a memoir... unless I misunderstood and it's intended to be about her mother? Regardle...
  • Brittany
    1970-01-01
    **I received a copy of this book from Tin House in exchange for my honest review. The thoughts, below, are my genuine reaction to this book.**Koh is a poet and you can feel her poetic urgings and longings throughout this moving, multigenerational story. "The water touched low on the cliffs. Kumiko's father watched his daughter, who had surprised the islanders with her irrepressible spirit. Her hair and eyes filled with the light of the sea in fro...
  • Sarah-Hope
    1970-01-01
    I found The Magical Language of Others a confusing, but rewarding title. The book's odd-numbered chapters offer English translations of letters sent to the author by her mother when the author lived with her brother in the U.S. and her parents returned to Korea because her father had received an exceptional job offer. In the even-numbered chapters, the author narrates different part of her family's history, going back several generations.The conf...
  • Sarah
    1970-01-01
    I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review; opinions are my own.What a gorgeous memoir. Poets are such great writers of creative prose because they know lyricism and that to me is everything. Koh is also a translator (she speaks/writes/translates Korean and Japanese) so her sense of language is so nuanced an expansive. Also, it’s really beautiful.This is the story of Koh’s mother writing al enter to her every week d...
  • Claire
    1970-01-01
    After reading this book, I look forward to future works of E.J. Koh - I'm a fan! This book covers mental illness, generational trauma, childhood trauma, Japanese-Korean racial tensions, immigration, and the struggle with cultural assimilation. The author is a Korean American woman born in California by Korean immigrant parents. Due to these circumstances, she is neither fluent in Korean nor of English. Her parents eventually leave Koh and her old...
  • Anna
    1970-01-01
    I was drawn to this book by the premise but also by the beautiful cover art. It was hard to engage with in the beginning and after realizing that the author has a background in poetry, it started to make sense.The strengths of this book are any section where the author talks about the past -- particularly when she describes the history of her grandparents.The weaknesses of the book are that the timeline was wonky and disorienting. Also, any secti...
  • Erin
    1970-01-01
    This offers a beautiful insight on various women experiences in Japan and Korea. It covers the Separation of North and South Korea, as well as the Japan and Korea conflict. Moreover, it follows the author's experience as a Korean-American and her relationship with her mother. I found all the generational stories absolutely captivating. The author's mom's letters were also so very wholesome and warm. My only issue was the distance the author creat...
  • Kristine
    1970-01-01
    The Magical Language of Others by E.J. Koh is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late November.So, so meaningful right away from the very first paragraph, these are 49 translated letters from the author's mother in about 90% near-beginner, 2nd level Korean and 10% (key terms) in English amid a sembled biography to fill the spaces in between. While she translates her mother's letters, she recalls living with her brother in California while thei...