#12 — Pachinko

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Rating: 4/5

  • This story follows 3-4 generations of Korean-Japanese– they are Korean by blood but have lived the majority if not all of their lives in Japan
  • The struggles of Zainichi Kankoku-Jin are familiar to those with knowledge of East Asian history; this book is a good introduction to those who are not as familiar with the topic
  • One criticism of this book is that the Zainichi experience comes across as generic and not particularly unique. There is almost no commentary on Japanese society and its norms that contribute to the continued discrimination of certain classes of people
  • If the book was a mad-libs game, with the oppressed and oppressor being the blank spaces, this book could easily take place in any country where minority groups are not welcome by the ruling majority. To me, this indicates two things: 1: that the author lacked sufficient research/experience to encapsulate and articulate an authentic Zainichi experience, or 2: that the feeling of exclusion and marginalization is universal, thus generalizing was a stylistic and intentional choice
  • Of the two choices above, I would guess the former. That is because the book really came alive when a Korean-American decided to date a Korean-Japanese and all hell broke loose– when compared to the other parts of the book, this seemed the most authentic, thoughtful, and the most engaging. The entire book could have been about that, and it would have been much better book. That being said, this is an interesting topic/period in history that is unknown by many people, so there is inherent value in shedding light on this issue. It is also written in a way that makes it hard to put down