The debut novel of Plymouth State University faculty member Katherine Min is making its mark in literary circles. The Oct. 23 issue of New Yorker magazine reviews Min’s novel Secondhand World, which details the coming-of-age of a Korean immigrant girl.
“This disquieting debut novel begins likes a murder mystery … The story that follows, however, is less an investigation than an exorcism,” read the New Yorker review. “The writing is exquisite, and exacting.”
Min, a resident of Plymouth, is excited to garner positive comments for Secondhand World.
“Writing a novel requires a lot of time working alone in a room, and you don’t know if anyone is going to read what you’ve written,” Min said. “So to have people reading the book, talking about my characters as though they were real people, is very gratifying. I don’t think it gets much better than that for a writer.”
Min’s short stories have appeared in numerous publications, including TriQuarterly, Ploughshares, The Threepenny Review and Prairie Schooner, and have been widely anthologized, most recently in The Pushcart Book of Stories: The Best Short Stories from a Quarter-Century of The Pushcart Prize.
Min’s story centers on Isadora Myung Hee Sohn, known as Isa, who worships her mother, an exceptional beauty, born in Seoul and sheltered in a harem of sisters inside the wealthy family’s compound. Isa’s father, a physics professor and orphan, is haunted by the war in which he served as a South Korean soldier, and by a painful secret that he keeps from his wife. Still mourning the death of Isa’s younger brother, Stephen, her parents are traditional enough to prize their dead son over their living daughter; to them, Isa only half exists.
But unlike many Asian American daughters, Isa is neither meek nor a quiet victim of tradition. Despite her parents success and sophistication — they’ve achieved the American dream — she repudiates their values, embarks on her own sexual education, and runs away with an albino boy, “Hero.” At the same time, and for her mother’s entire strict adherence to Korean traditional values, Isa suspects that she is involved with another man and determines to make the affair known. What begins as a child’s unthinking fury at her mother soon leads to more deadly consequences.
Min was awarded New Hampshire Arts Council fellowships in 2004 and 1995, and in 1992 received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. She is a six time fellow at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, N.H.; a resident of Ledig House, in Ghent, N.Y.; a Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fellow at the Millay Colony, in Austerlitz, N.Y., and a Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee, Tenn. Writers Conference. She currently teaches at Plymouth State University and the Iowa Summer Writing Festival.
Min was born in Champaign-Urbana, Ill., and graduated from Amherst College and the Columbia School of Journalism.
Plymouth State University (PSU) is a regional comprehensive university offering a rich, student-focused learning environment for both undergraduate and graduate students. PSU offers 42 majors and 62 minors in programs that include education, business, humanities, arts, and natural and social sciences. The College of Graduate Studies offers coursework that promotes research, best practices and reflection in locations on- and off-campus as well as online. For non-traditional students, PSU’s Frost School of Continuing and Professional Studies offers working professionals opportunities to pursue an undergraduate degree by attending classes in the evenings, weekends and online. Located in a beautiful New England setting, Plymouth State University has been recognized as one of the “Best in the Northeast” by The Princeton Review.