Wry humor, lively dialogue, and a compassionate take on being a single woman under a traditional mother’s matchmaking thumb enliven this insightful debut.
Ginger Lee, a Korean-American Ph.D. dropout playing at “fashion assistant” for a trendy Manhattan magazine, likes her life. She’s had no need for a long-term man, especially not a Korean one, ever since her father abandoned her, and her brother, George, entered his controversial marriage to a white woman (he hasn’t called since). As for her “career” (a favor from her editor-in-chief-best-friend), it’s limping along just fine, thank you. But when her mother, a “Korean Nancy Reagan,” suddenly catapults in from Milwaukee to find Ginger “a good Korean husband” before her daughter’s “bloom” fades (and when at the same time a slippery masthead coup ignites a flurry of fashionista catfights that threaten Ginger’s job), life takes a turn awry. To placate her mother, Ginger accepts numerous blind dates, and, to her utter shock, the conservative Koreans actually reject her. At the magazine, meanwhile, the publishers want blood, and Ginger seems the most likely “donor.” Her confidence shattered, she does what all good daughters do—turns to her mother. And, surprisingly, after several late-night strategy talks, the traditional mater begins to make sense: Ginger realizes what she does and does not want in a man, and, after a lot of new-found gumption for the idea of “work,” she gets promoted. Humbled, Ginger reconsiders her preconceptions about her heritage and realizes that it’s only by embracing both her mother and her Asian roots that she will truly bloom. A seasoned New York magazine editor herself, Hwang paints a deliciously scathing portrait of life behind the catwalk, while her sharp ear for dialogue captures the fictional mother’s broken Korean-English perfectly.
Perhaps most vitally, though, the story’s savvy urban rush never jostles the gently endearing path of Hwang’s delicate mother-daughter bond.