E.J. Koh with Cathy Park Hong
One of last year's highlights was the in-person launch of Seattle poet EJ Koh's extraordinary prose book, The Magical Language of Others: A Memoir (Tin House). This year we'll celebrate the paperback edition of this book in our virtual space, but the silver lining here is the availability of poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong to appear in conversation with E.J. The Magical Language of Others tells the story of Eun Ji, or E.J.’s, adolescence, left on her own with her young brother, while their parents took on work back in their home country of South Korea. Movingly narrated by the author, but with passages in Korean, and a series of translated letters from her mother, this is a singular, unforgettable, poetically-charged work.
“In The Magical Language of Others, E.J. Koh writes of the boundary between anonymity and naming, between absence and abandonment, between cruelty and safety for four generations of mothers and daughters, each speaking with an occupied heart and crossing narrative borders between Korea, Japan, and America. As a reader, you give yourself over to her narrative territory and the resetting of the borders of lineage, language, and lives lost.” —Shawn Wong.
“E.J. Koh’s The Magical Language of Others grapples with intergenerational loss and love between mothers and daughters across time, war, and immigration. Koh’s painful journey is bridged by her mother’s letters, which she translates, unfolding the language of mothering and tenderness. Koh remarkably and beautifully translates the language of mothers as the language of survivors.” —Don Mee Choi.
E.J. Koh’s debut book of poems, A Lesser Love, is also a marvel. Cathy Park Hong is the author of another significant and well regarded 2020 publication, Minor Feelings: an Asian American Reckoning (One World). Her scheduled 2020 appearance with us was shifted to a virtual event with Seattle Public Library, and we're glad that she'll be joining us tonight for this program. Her poetry collections include Dance, Dance, Revolution and Engine Empire.