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Islington Branch Book Club - Past Titles: "Pachinko" by Min Jin Lee

Take a look through previous titles we've discussed at our Islington Branch Book Club

"Pachinko" by Min Jin Lee

  1. Discuss the significance of the title, "Pachinko," and its metaphorical representation throughout the novel. How does the game of pachinko serve as a symbol for the characters' lives, filled with uncertainty, chance, and resilience?

  2. Analyze the character of Sunja and her journey throughout the novel. How does she embody the themes of strength, sacrifice, and determination as she navigates the challenges of being a Korean immigrant in Japan?

  3. Explore the theme of identity and belonging in the novel. How do characters like Sunja and her family grapple with their Korean heritage while living in Japan, and how does their sense of identity evolve over time?

  4. Discuss the role of family and community in "Pachinko." How do familial ties and relationships shape the characters' experiences, and how do they find support and belonging within their community, both in Korea and Japan?

  5. Analyze the portrayal of discrimination and prejudice against Koreans in Japan during the 20th century. How does the novel depict the systemic challenges and barriers faced by Korean immigrants, and what impact does it have on their lives and livelihoods?

  6. Consider the theme of resilience in the face of adversity. How do characters like Sunja and her family demonstrate resilience and perseverance in overcoming hardship and discrimination?

  7. Discuss the intergenerational dynamics in the novel. How do the experiences and choices of one generation impact the next, and how do family legacies and histories shape the characters' lives?

  8. Explore the theme of ambition and the pursuit of the American Dream. How do characters like Hansu and Noa navigate their desires for success and upward mobility, and how do their ambitions intersect with their cultural identity and heritage?

  9. Reflect on the role of gender and patriarchy in "Pachinko." How do societal expectations and gender norms influence the characters' experiences and relationships, particularly for female characters like Sunja and Kyunghee?

  10. Consider the significance of storytelling and memory in the novel. How do narratives and oral histories shape the characters' understanding of their past, present, and future, and how does the act of remembering contribute to their sense of identity and belonging?

Min Jin Lee is a Korean-American author known for her novels exploring themes of immigration, identity, family, and culture. She was born in 1968 in Seoul, South Korea, and immigrated to the United States with her family at the age of seven. They settled in Queens, New York, where Lee grew up.

Lee attended the Bronx High School of Science and later studied history at Yale University, where she graduated with honors. After Yale, she attended law school at Georgetown University but left after one semester to pursue writing.

Her literary career began with short stories published in various literary magazines. In 2007, she published her debut novel, "Free Food for Millionaires," which follows the struggles of a young Korean-American woman navigating family expectations and societal pressures in New York City. The novel received critical acclaim and established Lee as a talented voice in contemporary literature.

However, it was her second novel, "Pachinko," published in 2017, that garnered widespread acclaim and international recognition. "Pachinko" is a multi-generational saga following a Korean family living in Japan from the early 20th century to the late 20th century, exploring themes of identity, discrimination, and resilience. The novel was a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction and was named one of the "10 Best Books of 2017" by The New York Times Book Review.

Throughout her career, Min Jin Lee has been praised for her intricate storytelling, rich character development, and nuanced exploration of complex themes. Her work often draws from her own experiences as an immigrant and explores the intersections of culture, history, and identity.

In addition to her novels, Lee has written essays and articles for various publications, including The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Guardian, on topics such as literature, identity, and immigration.

Min Jin Lee continues to write and lecture on topics related to literature, history, and culture. She is a recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Her work has been translated into multiple languages and has earned her numerous awards and honors, solidifying her reputation as one of the most prominent voices in contemporary literature.


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