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Reflections on the East Asian 20th Century

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“The winter following Japan’s invasion of Manchuria was a difficult one. Biting winds sheared through the small boarding house, and the women stuffed cotton in between the fabric layers of their garments. This thing called the Depression was found everywhere in the world, the lodgers said frequently during meals, repeating what they’d overheard from the men at the market who could read newspapers. Poor Americans were as hungry as the poor Russians and the poor Chinese. In the name of the Emperor, even ordinary Japanese went without. No doubt, the canny and the hardy survived that winter, but the shameful reports – of children going to bed and not waking up, girls selling their innocence for a bowl of wheat noodles, and the elderly stealing away quietly to die so the young could eat – were far too plentiful.”

An excerpt from Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, published by Head of Zeus in 2017, p.12.


On Tuesday 23rd May, Reflections on the East Asian 20th Century  will take us back in in time with Min Jin Lee – bestselling author of Free Food for Millionaires – who will be presenting her new novel Pachinko for the first time in the UK.

Beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them, this epic tale – which has been in the making since 1989 when Min Jin Lee was a junior in college – follows a Korean family through eight decades and four generations. Betrayed by her wealthy lover, Sunja finds unexpected salvation when a young tubercular minister offers to marry her and bring her to Japan to start a new life.

So begins a sweeping saga of exceptional people in exile from a homeland they never knew and caught in the indifferent arc of history. In Japan, Sunja’s family members endure harsh discrimination, catastrophes, and poverty, yet they also encounter great joy as they pursue their passions and rise to meet the challenges this new home presents. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, they are bound together by deep familial roots.

Min Jin Lee will be in conversation with author, literary critic and former Man Booker Prize for Fiction judge Erica Wagner to reveal a profound story which delves into questions of faith, family and identity.

The talk will be followed by a book signing and drinks reception.

To book tickets for this event please click here

General: £10, Concessions: £8, Asia House Arts Members: £5

Asia House Arts Members need to enter their unique membership number when booking online. This can be found on the back of your membership card. Please call 0207 307 5454 if you experience any issues booking tickets.



May 23, 2017
18:45 - 20:00
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Asia House
63 New Cavendish St W1G 7LP United Kingdom
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