A slim but potent slice of Korean history, told through the lives of a troubled family.

American Water Tears: A Grandmaster's Story

Two estranged Korean brothers weather their differences to rediscover their blood bond in martial arts instructor Cho’s debut novel.  

Recent college graduate Steve Lee learns of his older brother Charlie’s drug troubles through a concerned friend and, with his father Jang’s help, he sets out to bring him back to their home in Massachusetts. When they, along with Charlie’s friend Benny, finally confront Charlie after a lengthy search, he’s aggressive toward them, provoking fistfights and shouting matches. The narrative adds texture and characterization as it effectively flickers between the past and present; Cho weaves the Lee family history into the story with flashbacks depicting Steve and Charlie’s harsh, hardscrabble childhood in Korea; their sexist father’s relentless abuse of their mother, Jasmine; and Charlie’s progression from rebellious, erratic behavior as a youth to his later self-destructive tendencies and opportunistic business scams. Also integral to the story is the Lees’ immigration from war-ravaged Korea to a city in New England. Cho writes in plainspoken, readable prose which serves the narrative well. Instead of melodramatic, overwrought episodes of a family in turmoil, he offers restrained chapters with vivid imagery from the Lee family members’ history, highlighting their strife and enduring spirit. He also addresses the brothers’ love-hate relationship and their desperate need to keep the family unit together. The story is flush with themes of belonging, heritage, honor, and brotherly solidarity, and it aligns closely with the author’s own life journey. Cho’s lean, concise novel gets to the heart of the immigrant family experience in a new world that’s full of trouble and temptation. The conclusion is satisfying and poignant, if a bit rushed; Cho would likely have served readers better by taking more time in reaching it.   

A slim but potent slice of Korean history, told through the lives of a troubled family.   

Pub Date: June 28, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5347-1759-6

Page Count: 164

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2016

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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