BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo, translated by Jamie Chang [in Booklist]

Already an international bestseller, television scriptwriter Cho Nam-Joo’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 Jamie Chang will ensure appreciative Anglophone audiences.

Cho’s narrative is part bildungsroman and part Wikipedia entry (complete with statistics-heavy footnotes). She opens with “August, 2015,” immediately divulging the fragile mental state of her titular Kim Jiyoung, who now as a wife and mother has developed the disturbing tendency to suddenly become other people she’s known, both living and dead. Through four chronological milestones – childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, and marriage – Cho presents what happened in the prior 33 years that actuated Jiyoung’s “abnormal behavior”; each period is marked by gross misogyny, from microaggressions to bullying to abuse to unrelenting dismissal.

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.

YA/Mature Readers: The exposure of gender inequity – from birth to adulthood – should provide resonating life lessons for mature teen readers.

Review: “Fiction,” Booklist, February 1, 2020

Readers: Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2016 (Korea), 2020 (United States)


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