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2019 Midwest Literary Walk author Min Jin Lee is a National Book Award Finalist, recipient of Fellowships in Fiction from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study at Harvard, and a New York Times bestselling author. She was born in Seoul, South Korea and immigrated to Queens, New York as a child in 1976. Lee graduated from the Bronx High School of Science and was inducted into the Bronx Science Hall of Fame. While studying at Yale College, she majored in History and was awarded the Henry Wright Prize for Nonfiction and the James Ashmun Veech Prize for Fiction. She attended law school at Georgetown University and worked as a lawyer for several years in New York prior to writing full time. Lee wrote her New York Times bestselling novel Pachinko while living in Tokyo, where she resided from 2007 to 2011. She is currently based in Boston, where she will be working on her third novel, American Hagwon. From 2019-2022, she will be a Writer-in-Residence at Amherst College.
Among her other accolades, Lee was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Monmouth College. In 2018 Lee was named an Adweek Creative 100 for being one of the “10 Writers and Editors Who are Changing the National Conversation,” and a Frederick Douglass 200 for her work as an author.
Her novel Pachinko (2017) was a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction, a runner-up for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and a New York Times 10 Best Books of 2017. A New York Times bestseller, Pachinko was also one of the Top 10 Books of the Year in 2017 selected by BBC, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and the New York Public Library. Pachinko was one of the selections for “Now Read This,” a book club organized by PBS NewsHour and The New York Times. The novel was listed on over 75 best books of the year lists, including NPR, PBS, and CNN. An international success, Pachinko will be translated into 27 languages.
Pachinko tells the story of a young Korean woman who emigrated to Japan, where she and her family struggle through war and hard times all while experiencing life’s joys, friendships, and heartbreaks. Library Journal dubbed the novel a “gripping multigenerational story with plenty of surprising turns,” and praises Lee for her “skillful development of her characters and story lines [that] draw readers into a delicate and accurate portrait of Korean life in Japan in the mid-to-late 20th century.” Pachinko earned a Kirkus Star, with reviewers toting the novel as an “epic whose simple, captivating storytelling delivers both wisdom and truth.” NPR lauded the novel for its “honest writing, fiction that looks squarely at what is, both terrible and wonderful and occasionally as bracing as a jar of Sunja’s best kimchi.”